Ski cross team amped up

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — The Canadian ski cross team, the top-ranked squad in the world, admitted yesterday that hemlock is one of their secret weapons heading into these Games.

No, they don’t plan to poison the opposition.

Last week, team officials revealed they were sending their skiers to a “secret training camp”. Upon their return Wednesday night, team official Andrew Squires finally let the cat out of the bag — they trained at the Hemlock Resort, located high above Harrison Lake in the Fraser Valley, about a two-hour drive east of Vancouver.

“It’s one of those older, right-back-to-the-basics resorts. It’s like when Rocky went to Siberia,” said Squires, with a laugh. “It’s not that far off considering what we gave up in the Athlete’s Village.”

Squires said the Canadian team, which is expected to win multiple medals in Vancouver, wanted to be able to train away from the prying eyes and cameras of other teams. And more importantly, wanted to train at a place with ample snow and unlimited hill access. Squires called the camp a resounding success, pointing out that many foreign teams staying in the Vancouver area had a difficult time finding decent spots to train, with unseasonably warm weather in the lower mainland and big crowds in Whistler.

As well, they wanted a training location with few distractions.

“We were looking for quiet,” he said. “There was no real cell phone service and very limited internet. Our sport is drawing quite a bit of attention right now (with its Games debut), so we wanted everything low key and have everyone relaxed and build a team atmosphere together, knowing that we’re on the cusp of something great.”

The Canadian team is stacked with talent, including reigning world champ Ashleigh McIvor of Whistler, B.C., and Stanley Hayer of Calgary, who won a silver at the 2007 worlds. At a World Cup last season on Cypress Mt., site of next week’s Olympic competition, Canadians took five of the six podium spots.

Squires said team officials identified Hemlock as an ideal place to train last year, and with funds from the Own the Podium program, organized the camp, taking along their entire coaching and support staff, a cat driver from the Farnham glacier, where they train in the off-season, and a team of chefs from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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