Ski team makes its mark on university circuit

McGill’s Michel Olivier-Saucier on a training run at the Chantecler ski centre. Four McGill skiers, including the Management freshman are among the top ten in the Quebec university men’s ski standings. / Photo: Michael Wong
McGill’s Michel-Olivier Saucier carves a racing turn. Four McGill skiers, including the Management freshman, are among the top ten in the Quebec university men’s ski standings. / Photo: Michael Wong

Aims to overtake Laval in final stretch

By Chris Chipello

At 9 o’clock on a bitingly cold night, a handful of McGill athletes are wrapping up a training session on the Chantecler ski hill in the Laurentians.

First, though, they need to make one more stop-and-go run down the mountain – to gather up all the slalom poles that they and coach David Côté planted in the snow three hours earlier.

Welcome to the world of university club sports. Like most of the 48 competitive teams at McGill, the alpine ski squad receives little funding from the University. So volunteering time and elbow-grease is an important part of the program.

A spot on the roster, of course, brings with it the excitement of participating in intercollegiate competitions. And the skiing Redmen and Martlets are holding their own quite well this winter, thank you. Over all, the combined McGill team is trailing only Université Laval in the six-team standings, with two weekends of racing to go.

“We’re gunning to overturn Laval and win the over-all title,” said co-captain Megan Kidston. The gap between the two schools is narrow, so “I think we have a good shot.”

The Martlets, meanwhile, are second to Université de Montréal in the women’s category. The other teams in the league are UQAM, Université de Sherbrooke and Concordia. The McGill and Concordia teams train together at Chantecler and share a bus, to help cut costs.

The season consists of 10 races, spread over five weekends. The remaining events feature two days of slalom racing at Montcalm, March 7-8, with slalom and giant-slalom races at Mont Garceau on March 13-14. (There are no downhill races on the circuit.)

Individual racers are awarded points, based on their finishes. Combined team scores are calculated by compiling the results of the top five men and top five women members.

Like most of the skiers, Kidston, who is from 100 Mile House, B.C., grew up racing at local ski hills. She spent two years competing on a provincial circuit in British Columbia before coming to McGill, where she is now a U3 student in kinesiology.

Kidston currently ranks fourth in the women’s individual standings, tops among the Martlet skiers. Teammate Carter Berton is right behind her in fifth place.

On the men’s side, freshman Eli Sheiner ranks second in the circuit standings. Also in the top-10 are teammates Michel-Olivier Saucier, Vincent Gilbert-Doré and Christian Vining.

As one of 32 competitive sports “clubs” at McGill, the skiers are a self-funding group. Most years, their biggest financial haul comes from a ski-equipment sale.

Members of the team buy their own season passes for the training hill and, of course, supply their own skis (one pair for the quick, tight turns of slalom skiing — another, longer set, for GS).

During the fall, team members prepare by doing dry-land training on and around campus. Once the season starts, on-snow training takes place two evenings a week under the lights at Chantecler.