Gregor Byrne was just 16 when he strapped on skis for the first time.
Forty years later, he joined hundreds of fellow skiers in unveiling the Wentworth Ski Racing Club’s new headquarters on Jan. 5 – and was nearly stampeded by a crowd of his eager students.
“For us it’s a touchstone for the kids, a place they can call home,” said Byrne, now a ski race coach. “The kids feel like they’re part of something bigger within these four walls and it helps us, in the development of the athletes. It’s people first and skiers and ski racers second.”
The new clubhouse will allow skiers to complete their warmups inside before hitting the slopes, rather than in the snow.
Instructors can use both TVs and computers located inside the building as teaching aids for their students, for example by running videos of proper techniques. The coaches themselves also have their own meeting room.
For Byrne, it was a welcome upgrade from their old headquarters, which he described as a “shack,” that the Wentworth Ski Racing Club simply outgrew.
He said that the club presently had 112 dedicated ski racers and roughly 250 members in total, who visit Ski Wentworth’s slopes just off Hwy 4.
While none of its athletes have yet made it to the Winter Olympics, Wentworth members have skied for Canada for the Trofeo Topolino contest in Italy and also represented their club in the Whistler Cup. One other athlete raced in the Alpine World Cup.
“Most of our World Cup ski racers come out of Ontario – money drives ski races,” said Byrne. “We’re racing against people with deeper pockets sometimes, but we’re doing really well.”
However, what ultimately makes a good skier is not deep pockets but constant practice.
Under the watch of Byrne and his colleagues, a new generation of Nova Scotian athletes is gaining confidence by practicing on the slopes of Ski Wentworth.
One young skier is 16-year-old Emily Todd from Halifax, who will be competing at the Canada Games in Red Deer from Feb. 19 to March 3.
The skiing itself will be held at the Nakiska Ski Area, a resort similar to the one at Wentworth, but in the foothills of the Rockies.
“I hope to achieve top 10,” said Todd. “I think it’ll be really good for the club and will give us a lot of media coverage, because Nova Scotia has not won a lot of medals in skiing.”
For more information on the club, please visit http://wentworthracing.com/