Until we were faced with ongoing communication around the words: isolate, distance, no travel, and/or quarantine – ski racing continued to attract new and current families in its traditional fashion. Families were looking for normalcy and peer interaction in a time when nothing was normal. Before reviewing the concept of a virtual race with one of our largest age groups (U10 and U12) between Whiteface and HoliMont, Travis Widger, Director of Snowsports of HoliMont, pondered the question: What are we missing most about Ski Racing and how the concept of a virtual race would help answer that.
What we are missing most about Ski Racing was the sense of community – the supportive team environment of athletes, families and staff coming together to do an activity they love. During the virtual race on February 28, we did not stream the runs or share stories on Google Hangouts. We created community and competition in a fun and engaging way – bringing two mountains, nearly 400 miles away, together, to ski race.
Our young athletes have been able to ski and train this season as much as in any typical season, however we have been missing the state, regional, and national community that we thrive on late in the season. Thanks to Beatty Schlueter, New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) U10/12 Alpine Program Director and Amy Brown, HoliMont Youth Development Coach, we built that sense of community through a virtual team race and had much success!
Through a few Zoom meetings, we decided this was to be a team event. We placed athletes from both programs on teams. Each team was given a color and was composed of mixed gender and ages. We chose similar terrain at both venues, chose a panel SL, and set the same number of gates with similar offset and distances. We encouraged the athletes to wear as much of their team color as they could find, and we took pictures and team videos. HoliMont athletes ran both runs in the morning and NYSEF athletes ran both runs in the afternoon. Both runs were on the same course and once all times were recorded, we merged the timing files and printed team results using a majority of the athletes for a total combined time. Athletes wrote cards to each other and each area sent a bundle of swag to hand out to their athletes.
The race runs were completed with time leftover to have a full morning or afternoon of skiing. Athletes had a blast collaborating with another club that typically only interacts later in the season. We are also working on some Virtual SkillsQuest challenges to supplement the race runs, and we are super-inspired by the response from our athletes and families.
COVID-19 has brought much change, many challenges, and some clarity. Clarity, huh? YES, clarity on what really matters: COMMUNITY! If we do nothing else in the seasons to come, we must remember what we have learned and adopt some of the changes and challenges for the better. We are for sure planning to continue this collaboration between NYSEF and HoliMont to promote community, enhance our training, and expand opportunities for our young athletes!
-Travis, Amy, Beatty