HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-At-Home Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Little did Ottawa’s Dustin Cook know that after he won the super-G silver medal at the 2015 world alpine ski championships what it would mean to the people around him. He does now.
His performance one day shy of 75 months ago inspired the ski families at Club Mont Ste Marie in Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., as well as the surrounding area. They wanted to help the next generation of skiers become like Cook.
They figured the best way to build the future was to provide a proper at-home training venue for the giant slalom and slalom skiers, one that would eliminate the need to travel elsewhere to develop their skills.
Four months after Cook stood on the world championship podium at Beaver Creek, Colorado, 160 families associated with Club Mont Ste. Marie had raised $190,000 to re-establish an internationally-sanctioned ski run.
The former Outaouais run on Cheval Blanc underwent major renovations to make it wider and longer, which would allow the return of FIS international racing as well as provide a quality technical ski training site.
The Dustin Cook Run was Phase 1 of a six-phase project that has become the critically-acclaimed Dustin Cook Training Centre. About $1.4 million has been raised through donors and grants to open the centre.
The training centre, which also includes a spacious, wooden start hut and lodge, finish-line lodge and snowmaking infrastructure, recently received a major award to allow it to complete Phase 5.
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Club Mont Ste. Marie was the inaugural winner of the $50,000 Mackenzie Top Peak contest. The club will use that money as well as $35,000 raised from 30 families for two specific areas on the Dustin Cook Run.
The course will be further widened by blasting out the Rock Cut section, which will eliminate a large rock wall to improve skier safety on the course.
Phase 6 will focus on placing 30 snow guns along the course and the plan is to have the skiers on the snow by Dec. 1 every year. This would allow skiers to train on an internationally-approved course sooner than normal.
Alpine Canada, which saw the importance of the centre and issued tax receipts to donors, named Club Mont Ste. Marie as its 2020-21 Club of the Year Monday. The Dustin Cook Training Centre was the driving force behind that.
The Mackenzie Top Peak competition was designed to show club spirit. Sixty clubs earned points by registering, developing a profile, completing a challenge and posting photos on Instagram. A judging panel also voted for the top club.
Camp Fortune and Calabogie Peaks also submitted strong bids and placed in the top five.
“Everyone said we should do it and it fit what we were doing,” said Chris Klotz, a Club Mont Ste. Marie board of director member responsible for development.
“We had to motivate the community again. We have been doing that for five years. But the community was behind it. They could see the results from what we did the last five years. We showed Canada what we are about.”
After presenting a strong profile of the club, which accounted for 80 per cent of the final mark, and an unmatched 4,200 posts placed on Instagram about their bid, Club Mont Ste. Marie emerged the winner.
“It’s just awesome,” Klotz added, noting the award provided the financing necessary for Phase 5 and to kickstart Phase 6 efforts, including advancing snowmaking plans.
Despite the alpine racing season being cancelled on Dustin Cook Run and training being sporadic because of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Club Mont Ste. Marie is enjoying two shining moments because of one skier.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.