I wanted to reach out at this time and share the positive outlook from a Canada Snowboard perspective and provide a bit of an update to our extended family.
Within this letter you will find:
- World Cup successes of 2019/20
- National Team Selections 2020/21
- Resort reopening - Test Case
- Safe Sport in a COVID-19 World
- International Federation Meetings gone digital
- Racism in sport, and Canada Snowboard's commitment to supporting underrepresented groups
The 2019 / 2020 winter season certainly has been one for the record books! If I were writing this message on the 29th of February it would be filled with nothing but positives. Major success in just about all aspects of our game both domestically and internationally. Countless stories of personal bests, achievements, and our team’s accomplishments. Fast forward to today and the success has been overshadowed by COVID-19 and the many impacts that it has had on our team, our community and the society we call home. This has been made even more challenging as we all take a look at ourselves in the mirror in response to the protests triggered by George Floyd’s death.
Many of our riders, coaches, and staff have had the best year of their lives only to have that flipped on them and be forced to suffer through the toughest few months of their lives. Canada is a vast country with large variances in the intensity in which this lockdown has affected our lives and altered the way we get to live them. Some of you are lucky enough to live in lesser effected areas, others not so lucky being right in the thick of it, hurting from loss and the uncertainty of how the future will look. Many of us however are finally at a point where there is light at the end of the tunnel. The curve is flattening. We have had a major victory where this is concerned but as we all know the battle is far from over. For some of us life is starting to go back to a version of normality with some of the restrictions being eased which is providing a lot of hope and for the team at Canada Snowboard an opportunity to reflect on some of the incredible highs of the 2019/ 20 winter that was, and start thinking more clearly on what the future may hold. I know my social media feeds are starting to show more people on bikes, more people interacting, and definitely more people thinking about how we are going to get back on snow. So, with that thought front and centre I wanted to start to talk about what we are working on currently at Canada Snowboard and reflect on the epic results of the season that was 2019 / 2020.
Canada Snowboard’s World Cups of 2020
When I stepped into this role almost 2 years ago, I came out swinging, with the goal of leading Canada Snowboard to be a World Leading National Sport Organisation. Central to my vision was to boost the high-end of the National Events pathway by ensuring that each of our disciplines has an Olympic Qualifying World Cup event at its pinnacle. Fortunately, this vision was generously backed by our PTSAs, National funding partner at Sport Canada and Provincial funding partners in B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Alberta who also want to see Canada as World Leading in Snowboarding. With a lot of great planning and good weather, these events went off without a hitch, providing additional high performance opportunities domestically for our National Program riders, coaches, judges, officials, course builders and management teams. Each event had its own highlights with a number of young developing riders reaching personal bests standing on podiums at home with their families and friends there to support them.
The Barrels and Berms SBX World Cup in British Columbia
The Barrels and Berms SBX World Cup was a new event in the proven SBX stronghold of Big White Ski Resort. Due to event cancelations due to poor snow quality in Europe the Big White event took the opportunity to double down and put on two SBX World Cups instead of the planned one plus a Teams SBX World Cup. Both events went down without a hitch and a Canadian future star was born in Eliot Grondin taking silver on his first World Cup podium at only 18. The atmosphere at Big White was electric, with beer gardens, sponsor village, fireworks, giant screen outdoor viewing parties and a huge crowd over the Australia day weekend. The Sunday’s event was won by Aussie Belle Brockhoff on Australia Day which certainly turned the atmosphere on with the local crowds.
The Snow Rodeo World Cup in Slopestyle + Halfpipe in Alberta
A few days later the event team headed to Calgary. The Snow Rodeo World Cup evolved from a Halfpipe specific event in 2019 into Slopestyle and Halfpipe World Cups in 2020. The event showcased world-class course design taking the snowboarding world by surprise presenting Calgary Olympic Park as one of the World’s best freestyle competition and high performance training facilities. The Rodeo themed event was an instant success and a great media experience. After many days of action-packed progressive riding Laurie Blouin came out on top winning gold adding another podium result to her impressive career and up and coming 18 year old multi-sport National Team athlete (snowboard/wakeboard) and multi-disciplined (Junior Olympic podiums for Slope, Pipe & Big Air) Liam Brealey took bronze his first World Cup podium at only 16!
Alpine Snow TKO World Cup in Ontario
Next stop on the tour was Blue Mountain Resort for the Alpine Snow TKO World Cup. This event consisting of two PGS World Cup events over two days was packed with the most surprises of all of our major events. Blue Mountain is not known for its late February deep dry powder days but sure enough, three days before the event kicked off the biggest storm of the year rolled through Ontario dumping close to a metre of powder across the Province. This presented numerous problems logistically. First and foremost, getting to the event with all roads to the area closed combined with how to clear and pack that much new snow down sufficiently to build a track that is race ready. PGS requires two virtually mirror image courses with carefully considered gate placements on a pitch of firmly packed snow with a consistency through the snowpack. Not an easy feat in any conditions but with that much new snow the scenario could have been dire. Miraculously come the Saturday race day the absolute army of volunteers, cat drivers, course setters and officials had the course looking absolutely perfect for the event. The Canadian results were topped by the most capped Olympic snowboarder of all time Jasey-Jay Anderson but the highlight of the event without a doubt was the world’s first dead tied finish down to the hundredth of a second. This bizarre sporting moment obviously took everyone by surprise as it had not only never happened before, but no one had ever considered it to be a possibility. This event also ran without any issues so by the first day of March the Canadian World Cups were complete. A total success and the fulfilment of a vision that was a total success. That’s about the exact moment when the world’s attention rapidly turned to COVID-19…
The tireless effort and countless hours that went into these events is rarely acknowledged, but our Provincial associations, staff, and volunteers deserve a huge congratulations for staging such epic events for our athletes.
2020/21 National Team Selections
Canada Snowboard is pleased to announce the 2020/2021 Canadian National Snowboarding Team. Both the freestyle and speed teams have been announced and all details regarding team selections can be found on the www.canadasnowboard.ca website. Congratulations to all of the athletes for their selection.
Resort Reopening - Test Case
Our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, who have the geographical advantage of living on extremely isolated islands, have had a lot of success in containing and managing the spread of COVID-19. This has put Australia and New Zealand in a position where both countries are rapidly evolving back to a social distancing modified version of normality. Businesses are opening up; travel restrictions are starting to be eased and their economies are starting to see the first signs of life after hibernation. This is perfectly timed with the Southern Winter with good early snowfalls, where resorts normally start opening mid-June and are in full swing by July. Unfortunately, Canadian teams will not be able to get there due to current international travel restrictions, but all eyes will be on the reopening of the ski industry there to see how we can model best practices for the Canadian resorts reopening this fall.
Safe Sport in a COVID-19 World
Snowboarding is one of the safest sports when it comes to compliance with social distancing safety measures. We all wear gloves, goggles and a lot of the time we wear face coverings. I am sure, based on the experience we are all currently living through that this year we will see a large increase in people wearing neck warmer face covers. I would not be surprised if everyone wears them. It is in all of our interests to ensure that ski resorts stay open once they start rolling the chairlifts and doing everything that we can to comply with social distancing will help to ensure that the resorts can keep operating once open. Canada Snowboard will be watching carefully how the resorts downunder manage social distancing in their day-to-day resort activities. In programs, ski schools, at events, chairlifts, line ups, on mountain lodges and in their high-performance activities. Our goal is to learn from the Canadian health experts and help to model systems that will work for our Canadian programs for our activities and those of our partners with the goal of creating the safest place possible for all snowboarders. Our goal is to ease fears around participation in snowboarding as we see it being one of the safest sports in a COVID-19 world that we will all need to adapt to moving forward.
International Federation Meetings Gone Digital
In recent weeks we saw the first time that the global FIS Spring meetings have been held digitally. Scheduled to be held in Thailand, the on-site event was cancelled in April and the delivery shifted to a digital conference. This conference involves multiple representatives from every snow sport nation so the scale of the digital event was enormous but was executed effectively enough to think through 2020/21 scenarios that may need to be implemented for the competitive season, while we all recognize COVID-19 will require flexibility, creativity, and significant resolve. Canadians will overcome this, Canadian Snowboarders will elevate through this, and we will continue to progress the sport on an ongoing basis.
Racism in Sport
Race, Gender and Canada’s under-represented groups are always on our radar at Canada Snowboard, always have and always will be. We at Canada Snowboard have programs which serve a multitude of Canada’s under-represented groups, and educate our staff and program managers around inclusion. Canada is a very culturally diverse nation and we look at all of these cultures with inclusion and equality. This goes through the whole sport system at Canada Snowboard right through all of our Provincial Associations / Territorial Associations. This does not mean we are not currently looking very carefully in the mirror to ensure that inclusion and equality is front and centre to our culture. We will continue to strive for improvement in this space. I would like to thank all of the peaceful protesters for reminding everyone in our society to question ourselves and then to go out and practice what we preach. We can always do better.
I wish to thank each of you within the Snowboard community for your support of one another, staying positive, and continuing to be leaders with hope and stoke for what our future brings.
Stay well and chat soon,
Dustin Heise, Executive Director, Canada Snowboard