Catching Up with… Kip Harrington – High Performance Director

Kip Harrington has lived most of his life on ski hills. Growing up in a ski racing family in Sault Ste. Marie, the winters were long and the snow was plentiful. Like most Canadians, he dipped his toes into the hockey pool amongst many other sports, but the skiing bug took a bite and that was just the beginning of a lifelong career in alpine skiing. Through passion and perseverance, Kip has worked with the Ontario Ski Team, the Canadian Alpine Ski Team and even the British Ski Academy, which has given him a worldly view of the sport he truly lives for.

Kip is currently the High Performance Director here at AOA. On most days you will find him out on the slopes, taking in as much as he can from the athletes, coaches, families and volunteers who are training, competing and cheering. While his own journey started at 18 when he started coaching full time, his climb was long and slow but has taken him on a trip of a lifetime.

“I started at Searchmont, as a club coach. Moved on to become the Northern Ontario Team coach for 6 years, then the OST coach for 8 years and then to the National level coaching with Alpine Canada. I’ve been to several World Championships, many World Junior Championships and an Olympic Games. I’ve even spent some years in Europe with the British Ski Academy. All spread out over the past 35 years that I’ve been coaching. It’s incredibly rewarding.”

The slow and steady journey came to him naturally. Coaching was never something he really thought about, but he wouldn’t do it any differently. His dream was not specifically to become a World Cup coach but his life led him to that exact spot. He liked what he did with such enthusiasm and dedication, he worked hard and doors opened for him at the right time in his career. Kip has a zest for life and an incredible appreciation for the sport and ski community combined.

If you’ve ever had a moment to chat with Kip, you’ll understand why his journey has been so prolific. When he’s coaching and out on the field of play you can see how he takes all aspects of ski racing in. He loves working with kids, being in the mountains, and just being with a community of like-minded individuals doing something they all enjoy and working together to be the best that they can be – together. Community was something that was terribly missed last season with the absence of racing and Kip can’t wait to get out there and meet all of the new faces and reconnect with familiar ones. 

“Working with kids from all walks of life and seeing them develop – you see them mature and tackle challenges. All great skiers that I have had the privilege of coaching, start to pull away after a bit, not in a bad way, they have learned from you what they can on the hill and they want to start making their own decisions. Years later, I might see them again at a World Cup and their level of understanding is so different and rewarding to see. It’s all fantastically fun and such a great thing.”

When he’s out on the slopes, Kip feels energized. In his current role some things are necessary but not always super fun to do, but getting out there on the hill with the athletes, coaches and families – their energy is infectious. As a coach, his role is a little like being a parent. You go on a journey with the athletes, you care about them, you see them struggle through injuries,  you see them through successes and failures, but the athletes really rely on you to be steady as a coach. When they feel a rollercoaster coming on, you are there to keep your cool and help them walk through it.

Through the years, Kip has made countless memories, but what really resonates with him are the connections he’s made. Building relationships with athletes not just when they are racing but when they are off the hill, he truly gets to know them and by extension he gets to know their families and the energy they pour into the sport. For Kip, it’s about camaraderie and community. 

“The key is to keep an open mind. The potential of these athletes is unbelievable, they’re still learning and growing. It’s so important for us to build more opportunities for them to develop and be together as the season rolls on. Huge kudos to the athletes, coaches and families who have made this season happen – in one way or another we must find a way to rise from what we’ve gone through in the past year. From what I’ve already seen, you are as strong, if not stronger, out there than ever before.”

Kip, more than anything, is looking forward to getting to know everyone this season. It’s important to him to motivate and provide guidance, but most importantly have rewarding experiences that help kids be successful as athletes and in life. There are important things we can accomplish together, we’ve just got to get out there and do it! 

For more details on how you can become an AOA coach, please click here.