VANCOUVER, BC – There’s a special cohesion and camaraderie of Canada’s ski cross team for the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games – they’re all Calgary Dinos.
With World Cup, Youth Olympic and Continental Cup starts, the Canadian ski cross team heading to Lake Placid is one of the most experienced in its delegation, and there is a tantalizing potential for podium contention.
Kiersten Vincett, who made her FIS World Cup debut in Nakiska in 2022, is one of Canada’s most experienced athletes heading to the Games, and three of her Dinos teammates round out the team.
Joining her are Elizabeth Filiatrault, Charlie Lang and Jack Morrow, all of whom race for the Calgary Dinos and Evolve Ski Cross, primarily competing in NorAm Continental Cup races.
The University of Calgary is the only Canadian school to offer a post-secondary athletics option for ski cross athletes. While many don’t compete directly for the Dinos, and instead race for local clubs, academic opportunities for the sport can only be found in Canada’s Olympic capital.
“It’s difficult, I won’t lie; I’m also in kinesiology, which is a very challenging faculty with a lot of hands-on work,” Vincett, 22, told 49 Sports. “Most of the time, the professors are really good at understanding that I compete at a high level, so they’re able to work with me.”
Vincett and her teammates at the FISU Games are all members of the Evolve Ski Cross team based in Calgary, a year-round program dedicated to providing a lower-cost alternative to traditional alpine training while providing one of the few ski cross-focused programs in Canada.
“It really helps bridge the gap between the Continental Cup and World Cup for many different nations… it’s really expensive to have things all spread out like transport, lodging, a tech, and a coach when you’re just a few people,” she said.
“We end up being this really interesting group of people that are all pushing for World Cup, but we’re not fighting each other for our nation’s spots, so I think that lends to a better training environment.”
Evolve, which has become the prominent ski cross program in Alberta, hasn’t produced any regular World Cup starters for Canada, but with potential open spots on the Canadian team, those athletes are likely the ones to fill the gaps.
Canadians have won 70 World Cup races, and have reached the podium 234 times, the third most of any country, trailing Sweden and Switzerland. Team Canada has won the nation’s cup as the season’s best country nine times.
“Helping to continue that tradition of dominance would be awesome,” said Vincett, who his close friends with several Canadian national team members. “I Would love to put my name as contributing to some of those things.”
Dinos bring international experience to Lake Placid
Although the FISU Games are a step below the Olympics and World Cups, they still offer an aspect seldom seen on North American snow. During the COVID season of 2019-20, it was difficult for Canadian athletes to join the European tour, and in North America, the NorAm tour featured prominently Canadians, with no sanctioned American ski cross program.
For the Canadian athletes, it’s meant they haven’t seen much of global competition.
With the Lake Placid event, however, there’s an opportunity to test themselves amongst some of the best U25 skiers in the world, in a FISU sport that has continuously paved the way to the Olympics and World Cup.
Florian Wilmmsman of Germany, who captured bronze at the last FISU Games, now has seven World Cup podiums and two victories. Meanwhile, Russia’s Ekaterina Maltseva podiumed twice at the FISU Games and made her Olympic debut at Beijing 2022. The Russian team is barred at Lake Placid 2023 due to their continued attacks on Ukraine.
“I don’t think I would be able to be pursuing my degree and ski cross at the same time if it weren’t for the University of Calgary and Evolve,” Lang told 49 Sports. “With the help of the Dinos, they’re able to help us communicate and make accommodations for us and it just wouldn’t be possible without a structured team.”
With the cohesion of the Dinos and Evolve athletes, the academic group’s combined focus on skiing and academics will allow them to keep up with their studies while in Lake Placid; however, the Games offer a new chapter for Lang and Vincett, both of whom have taken on significant events in the past.
Vincett has skied on the World Cup, as well as World Junior Championships, while Lang finished 18th at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games. With international experience, they’re going into Lake Placid with Dinos and Canadian pride, but also medal hopes. Jack Morrow also competed in the 2020 Youth Olympics.
“I’m hoping it will be pretty similar to the Youth Olympics, you’ve got a lot of the same characteristics, so I’m excited and ready for that,” Lang said. “It’s super important to look at it not as one of these big events because I’ve let nerves get to me in the past, but with a bit of experience in these international events, it’ll be a lot better from the get-go.”