Whistler (BC), Canada – It’s ironic, but true: the Canadian National Aerial team doesn’t have enough time to ski. That’s the conclusion of Coach Nicolas Fontaine, who is trying to improve his team’s competitive results with a two-week ski camp here in Whistler this spring.
“We have a great program for acrobatic and physical training,” said Fontaine, “but we need to spend more time skiing.”
The majority of members of the Canadian Freestyle Aerial Team have been recruited from acrobatic sports like gymnastics and trampoline. They don’t necessarily have a ski background and in fact some of them had never skied before attempting aerials at summer training on the water ramps.
Fontaine, who was one of the best aerialists of all time and holds four World Cup Aerials overall titles, said he has noticed that this deficiency of basic ski skills is having a negative impact on the aerialists’ ability to compete and train.
In competition, aerialists land their spectacular jumps from 18 meters in the air on to a 38-degree pitch, that’s incredibly steep — especially for someone who isn’t a strong skier. Fontaine has noticed that for some of his athletes, even when they land their jump well, they have trouble making it to the bottom of the course without falling. He also pointed out that skiing on a water ramp – an integral aspect of aerial off-season training – is very difficult as the plastic surface of the in-run is like skiing on a sheet of ice. He said that some athletes’ summer training is compromised because of their fear of the in-run.
Fontaine brought Canadian Ski Instructor’s Alliance level four instructor Guy Blouin from Magog, Quebec, to come to Whistler to work with the group. Blouin is teaching the team technical ski skills, and also having fun with them in the park and on the moguls. An added bonus, said Fontaine, is the group bonding that’s happening in this popular British Columbia ski resort town.
After a week of skiing, Fontaine has noticed definite improvements to his team’s skiing ability and comfort. A confidence factor that he hopes will take them to the top of the podium next season.
But this two-week camp is not the end of it; Fontaine plans to make changes to his coaching plan to include rollerblading this summer to reinforce basic body positioning and a lot more skiing next winter.