Thursday, 12 March 2009

An Open Letter to the Banff Alpine Racers

Dear Mr. President:

I had the misfortune to run across your race team at Sunshine Village over the weekend of March 7/8, and I wanted to offer you some feedback. You were participating in racing/training on Goat's Eye Mountain on both days.

The arrogance and disrespect of the members of your club is atrocious. En masse, both days, they abandon their skis in front of Goat's Eye Gardens, rather than putting them in the racks. I sought out your leaders and asked them not to abandon their skis in front of the Goat's Eye Gardens entrance as it was a safety hazard, but the behaviour did not change. To one of your leader's credit, I heard him speak to your members, who claimed it was not them, but "the girls" who left 40+ pairs of skis in everyone's way -- and still did nothing about it. I spoke with several of the volunteer helpers but they would not do anything. I saw one of Sunshine's ski patrollers trying in vain to get your people to simply put their skis in the racks, with his instructions falling on deaf ears (he finally gave up). I actually considered putting them all in the racks myself -- mismatched, of course, just to make a point -- but thought that was stooping to your level.

In addition, on the way to their closed race course, they treat other skiers as race gates, cutting them off and skiing past them at high speed, irrespective of the danger. I respect that they wish to practice, but they should be taught to do so away from others. They are more than welcome to ski like utter maniacs on their closed race course where they don't put others at risk -- in fact, I suspect they are encouraged to do so -- but while on the hill with other guests, they should be following the Alpine Responsibility Code.

They ignored others in the lift corrals, pushing through when it is not their turn, or blocking the corrals to wait for their friends. Fortunately, it was not that busy, or they really would have caused a ruckus.

Your motto is "Make friends. Learn skills, and develop a love for skiing". You should also be teaching respect and consideration for others, which they do not have, and care for safety, which they do not have. I commented to my partner that I would never want my children joining your program, which by all measures on this past weekend turns out arrogant, self centered, inconsiderate juvenile delinquents on the ski hill. Not the skills I suspect you seek.

Derek Ryder


- A proud supporter, and quite possibly one of the kiddies at the race in question said...

As a former Banff Alpine Racer, I must respect the feedback that relates to my team. However, I do feel the need to make a few comments of my own. Should the immediate response to discipline be to blame "the girls", perhaps your expectations regarding maturity are slightly inflated. While your point regarding the placement of the skis is valid (albeit misguided), acknowledging that the atmosphere of race day is not exactly orderly might allow some explanation for the disarray. Goat's Eye is quite a hectic place to be during competition, especially as a recreational skier; I urge you to ski elsewhere should you feel your safety is at risk. The Sunshine employees can only sympathize with the 200+ kids trying to warm up or grab a bite inside before they strip down to their suits and shred through their run; a task fairly difficult without having to address the preoccupation of a disgruntled stranger. I am so thankful you did not end up moving any skis - had they been tuned to perfection by any one of our coaches and then mishandled to prove a point, you would have crossed a very sacred line to anybody taking the sport seriously. In regards to the Alpine Responsibility Code, any disregard or inattention to the bright orange signs and b-netting surrounding the training/race runs would constitute as failure to observe and/or obey posted warnings, whereas using a terrain to the best of a young racer's ability does not necessarily include being a hazard. Perhaps the courtesy you are seeking does not come from these pre-pubescent speed demons, but rather from yourself. Instead of complaining about the extra few minutes spent in a lift line via strongly-worded blog post, you could make friends with us, learn skills with us, and develop a love for skiing. I am quite certain safety falls under the "skills" category, as I did grow up with a second family and set of guardians watching over me every weekend. I could argue that a foundation built to instruct and promote alpine racing has no place in implementing values other that those of alpine racing, and therefore have no correlation with your accused personality traits. However, this would not be entirely true, as I have without a doubt been influenced by this group. I will remember my coaches for the rest of my life as people who stood by me and my teammates as we outgrew our bratty, rambunctious, normal behaviour and shaped us into successful athletes, dedicated workers, and experience-educated individuals. I do believe your approach to this was entirely out of line. Quite honestly, this is no more an attack on the Banff Alpine Racers as it is to children in general. If this is a matter of maturity, calling a team of kids "arrogant, self-centred, inconsiderate juvenile delinquents" to a public blog entitled, "Happenings at Jello's House" seems slightly hypocritical. It saddens me to think that people such as yourself, who seek rigidity and structure in youth sport, might contribute to the early drop outs in competition. Whilst applying for an academic scholarship, I came across this unfortunate and distasteful text. Let it be known I was attempting to record my athletic achievements and outline how much of my perseverance is due to my experiences within the BAR community. In the unlikely event that someone else stumbles across this post, I hope they see the difference between the skills that are sought out by Banff Alpine Racers and the faults that are sought out by those looking for a scapegoat (no pun intended).

RyderDA said...

I appreciate your feedback on my post made 5 years ago.

For the record, I will happily admit that the Banff Alpine Racers are MUCH more considerate of others than they were 5 years ago. They no longer leave their skis dangerously around the Goat's Eye or elsewhere. I have not seen it happen in the last 2 years. Perhaps the numerous requests of Ski Patrol worked. Perhaps the BAR stepped up to help improve the situation.

For the record, the comments made were NOT about a race day, when many things are one the line, but rather about non-race practice days. On race days, I offer a LOT of latitude, and applaud the focus the team brings.

As to the Alpine Responsibility Code, race day or not, I am not a race gate, nor are others on the ski hill. My point (perhaps poorly made) was that other skiers on the hill are NOT race gates to be cut off between the top of the lift and the start of the race course, as I witnessed that day, many other days leading up to the post, and numerous days since. The code specifically states that 1) You must ski in control in a way that you must be able to stop or avoid other people, and 2) people ahead have the right of way, and that it is your responsibility to avoid them. I have witnessed -- on numerous occasions -- BAR uniformed individuals failing to follow these two rules on their way to their race course on practice days.

I have very happily observed since I wrote this post 5 years ago that BAR members are MUCH better at being respectful in lift lines. I would like to think my comments may have improved things, but I am very doubtful of that. In any case, I applaud the change.

This post was not an attack on "children in general" as you suggest. I ski 70-90 days at Sunshine each year, and I can state that in 30+ years of skiing at Sunshine, I have never had these kinds of issues with the Sunshine Ski Club, the FAST team from Fernie, the kids from Norquay, or Louise or Nakiska, or COP, or Snow Valley, or any other ski team I have ever seen. Someone once told me that the equipment you brought to the hill didn't matter, it was the attitude. The other teams have never demonstrated to me these kind of attitudes, or "entitlements" described in my post or your comments. It's a BAR "thing".

However, I am pleased to see the behaviour of the Banff Alpine Racers improving. I am pleased to see their desire to win has not diminished, but that they have learned that winning and being respectful of others are not mutually exclusive. I strongly encourage that message.

As so many successful athletes will attest, winning isn't everything. Im NHL hockey, they award the Lady Byng trophy for "player who exhibited outstanding sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct", the Bill Masterson Trophy for "player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication". The CIS awards a trophy for "most sportsmanlike player". The CFL has the Tom Pate award, recognizing "outstanding sportsmanship". Those awards (among many others in many other sports) are about recognizing that there are more values than winning; that playing respectfully matters. That playing by the Alpine Responsibility Code on and off the race course matters.

Perhaps in the 5 years since I wrote this post, the Banff Alpine Racers have turned themselves around. We would all be proud if they have. But I encourage parents looking to enroll their kids in any ski race program to ask these kind of questions of the program organizers and coaches. Perhaps they might consider the experiences of those who see the program's output, and not those of contributors who choose to remain anonymous.