By AOA Communication Manager, Kristin Ellis – September 18th, 2019. 

This interview is part of a series of Q&As with each member of the Ontario Ski Team.  This week we are profiling Aaron Puskas who is from Thunder Bay and the Lake Superior Division – Alpine (LSDA). He is entering his 2nd year on the OST and his 3rd year of FIS and will be skiing full time while applying to Universities for next fall.

Q: How was your summer, did you juggle a job with dryland and ski camps?

A: Yes, I worked all summer as a contractor and landscaper and I played football and did my off-season dryland program.

Q: Where do you do your dryland training?

A: Well we live 30minutes outside of Thunder Bay, so we have a home gym. I manage all the CSIO (Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario) programming myself adapting it to fit in with my football workouts.

Q: So you don’t have a personal trainer?

A: No, I guess you’d say I’m my own personal trainer. We do check in with the CSIO four times over the off-season so they keep an eye on our progress.

Q: What kind of football are we talking about, what level?

A: I’ve been on the high school team for 4 years along with the Ontario Football Team for the 2016-17 season. I’ve also been invited to try out for Team Canada. Football is very competitive up here – Thunder Bay would be ranked 35th in Canada for its football program and we’ve won the OFFSSA bowl for 3 years in a row now. Anyone who knows football knows this is a pretty big deal coming from a small town.

Q: Is this similar to how Sam (Duff) juggles whitewater kayaking with skiing, you are juggling football and skiing at a high level?

A: Yes exactly. Football is the perfect compliment to ski racing as I’ve always been able to do both. When skiing ends, football starts and when football ends skiing starts. The sports also complement each other as I get power and explosiveness from football and that translates well over to skiing.

Q: But this year it seems like you’ve had to make a choice and that’s skiing.

A: Yes and no…football is still there. I guess I’m not technically on a football team right now, but I’ve had some Canadian University offers to play in the future. I feel that I can come back to football and I’m still training right now.

Q: Football runs deep in your family as I recall…your brothers both play for Queen’s?

A: Yes, my oldest brother is in his 5th season with Queen’s and my middle brother his 3rd.

Q: You boys love Queen’s!

A: Yes we do. I really love Kingston, it’s a town that I feel super comfortable in. It would be a great place to study, I think.

Q: Will you apply there for next September? Does this mean no more skiing?

A: It is too early to say, I am in the midst of applying for 2020 entrance. I’m applying to quite a few Canadian schools and some ivy league schools as well. Eventually, I’d like to consider law. I’m about to start an apprenticeship with a lawyer this fall here at home.

So you are not a math & sciences guy like the rest of your family? (Aaron’s parents are both doctors and his two brothers are in science-focused programs)

A: No, no I’m the opposite of my entire family. They excel in math and sciences and my best subjects are in English, law, literature and philosophy.

SIDE NOTE: At this point, I should add Aaron is extremely articulate and well-spoken. I’m starting to wonder if, in fact, I’m talking to an 18-year-old.….


Q: So let’s assume you don’t go to Queen’s. Is skiing at a high level still a goal of yours? Skiing for Canada I mean?

A: Yes, it’s still there. It’s a long-term goal of course but yes, I’d love to represent my country.

Q: Were you happy with your season last year?

A: Yes and no. I’ve been battling the mental side of this sport for two years now. Until March of this past year, I haven’t been happy with my results. I went from the top of the pack in U16, to never finishing a race in 1st-year FIS. (Aaron represented Team Canada on the Italy project in his final year of U16). Then in my 2nd year of FIS (this past season), I still wasn’t finishing. In March I started to turn this around but let me assure you I 100% would not be here if it were not for my coach Cam McKenzie. With his support, I was able to hit the podium at Nationals in GS and more importantly –  I was happy with how my season ended mentally; it was a really good March for all of us!

Q: That’s true as you, Sam and Britton all did well late in March. I guess the team started feeding off each other a bit?

A: Yes absolutely. We all progressed. You can’t complain about that.

Q: So is it fair to say your weakness is mainly the mental side of this sport?

Yes absolutely. Fear of failure, not pushing yourself hard enough, confidence. You watch peers around you succeed and then you get impatient. Cam helped me a ton. The team psychologist Dana Sinclair also helped me a lot. I learnt a lot under my coaches arm, he’s so insightful and wise and very patient.

Q: What about your strengths? I would take a guess and say you are extremely good at self-management.

A: Yes, I guess so. Living in Thunder Bay means I need to manage the sport and training myself. I also lived alone out west for my 1st year FIS so I guess I was thrown into the sport on my own.

Q: Oh right, I forgot about that.
(Aaron skied 1st year of FIS with the Nakiska Ski Club) Was moving to Alberta alone a good thing, or bad?

A: Well for me it was good. It made me uncomfortable. I was down and out, and I had to drop everything in my life …my home, my family, my school. I came back with a true appreciation of what I have here.  I’ll also add that patience and fortitude are new strengths. These took me a while to learn, however.


Q: Is early success a good thing or bad?

A: For some people, early success can be a very positive or negative factor in shaping your career as a FIS athlete. There is a large stigma surrounding points and national ranking in this sport and as a result of this, athletes who have had early success might lose focus on their self-development. Of course, every accomplishment is well deserved and earned – but the way one reacts varies drastically, of course.

Once you enter FIS it is very unpredictable. You can enter 1st-year FIS thinking “ok this is my time to score” but it is a whole new playground. It is incredibly hard to say what will happen…some random skier you’ve never heard of can pull ahead and then so many others go down.

Q: Words of advice to the younger skiers? 

A: I can’t say for the girls but at least for the guys entering 1st-year FIS –  forget everything you’ve ever done. Start fresh. Watch and learn. Be open-minded. Very little of how you did in U14 or U16 matters.

Q: Last question…what do you love about ski racing?

A: I love the opportunities the sport has given me. I appreciate what I have. My dad always tells me when I get to the top of the course no matter how I’m feeling I should look around and take it all in. It’s great advice and I try to follow it. Perspective is the main factor in controlling emotion, especially in this sport. So regardless of where you’re sitting in your career and goals at the end of the day, you have the chance to chase your dreams and do something you love.

I also love seeing my hard work and focus come to fruition while rippin’ it up on the snow. Who doesn’t love that?


To read the other OST interviews or to learn more about this team please visit

Setting goals + proper training = results at next testing

Submitted by SXS Fitness owner & Osler U16 coach, Stefan Overgaard.

Now that fall is here, we turn our attention to fitness testing.  For many, it’s a dreaded, painful and sometimes humbling experience and it’s usually not the actual test itself that is feared but the outcome of the test (I say this with all due respect to box and beep tests).  I’m a big believer that if we put the time into properly preparing and manage expectations the testing experience can turn from negative to positive.

The first thing to do is set goals.  Do this now if you haven’t done it already.  There is overwhelming statics that shows achieving success is based on formal goal setting as opposed to ‘hoping for the best’.  It’s not hard, nor does it have to be complicated.  In fact, simpler is often better.  The process is as follows:  Look at your previous results, see where you need to get to, figure out your level of commitment (this is a biggie and I’ll come back to this), and finally mark down your goals and keep them in a very visible spot.  I’m a fan of the SMART goal setting system.  Most people know it but I’ll list it again:

Specific- Goals need to be clear and well definite.  E.g a poor example of a specific goal “do better than last year” or “increase overall fitness level”.

Measurable- The goal has to be objective. It’s not an opinion; you have to be able to easily compare results with clear data.  E.g increase box jump score from 50 to 58.

Attainable- A goal should be difficult to achieve but still not unrealistic. E.g increase box jump score from 50 to 80 is not likely very attainable and will end in disappointment.

Relevant- Needs to be relevant to what you are trying to achieve in the testing.  E.g a poor example would be “beat Billy in the box test” Even if Billy is known for being fit and scoring well in testing it still might not be relevant to the score you need to get.  I’d even go as far as using “winning the box test” as a poor example because even with a victory it might not be the score you need and it’s also focused on the outcome and not the process to get there making it not relevant.

Time- Goals need a timeline attached to them.  Without that, they are left open-ended and you aren’t as likely to achieve them.  There needs to be a deadline for when you must achieve the goal.

Using the box jump example, a proper goal would look like this:  Increase box jump score from 50 to 58 in 60sec by AOA Fitness testing Oct. 19th, 2019.  You can do the same with basically all the tests.  I’d recommend writing down and having them in plain view at all times (on the fridge, in the mirror in the bathroom, in your locker, on your phone etc).  Go through this with your coaches and your parents.  Doing this process doesn’t take much time and is not terribly difficult but is extremely important.

Now the hard part – following through on your commitment to achieving your goals.  I won’t get into specifics in this article but once you set the goals you have to basically reverse engineer on how you are going to get there by starting at the end (in this case fitness testing) and going back to the present day, setting up a plan on what you need to do to ensure you can achieve those goals.  Again, don’t be afraid to ask for help with this from parents, coaches or even peers. You can roughly plan on how often you need to train per week and where the focus of the training should be.  Setting a goal of increasing Penta jump from 9m to 10.5m with a plan of training once per week which involves going for a run and doing push-ups is not setting you up for success.  That’s why when you set the goals you must commit a proper plan to get you there and then, of course, you must execute it.  Good intentions and actually following through are two worlds apart and the difference between success and disappointment…  So, get a pen or your phone and write down your goals.  Don’t be afraid to reach high but be sure you are committed to the plan on getting there.  Follow the goal-setting process and instead of fearing testing and feeling disappointed with your results you can look forward to the opportunity to test how well your dedicated hard work paid off and reap the rewards of following through with your plan!







By AOA Communication Manager, Kristin Ellis – September 10th, 2019.

This interview is part of a series of Q&As with members of the Ontario Ski Team. Ashley is the youngest member on the Ontario Ski Team in her 2nd year of FIS and 2nd year on the team. She made the rare jump directly to the team after U16, where she had progressed up through the Georgian Peaks Club programs.


Q: How was your summer?

A: I was in summer school for half of it, completing grade 12 biology in Toronto. It was full time, all day every day for the entire month.

Q: Ouch. That must be hard for a skier that loves to be outside.

A: Yes but I’m getting used to it, I always do at least one summer school course. It does help manage the workload during the winter. This year I only have 5 more classes to graduate.

Q: So were you able to relax in August?

A: Well not really. I had a job at a startup company in Bracebridge. It’s a company that makes fabrics, so I did stuff like packing, quality control that sort of thing.

Q: Do you work to help offset your ski racing costs?

A: Yes, I try to pitch in where I can.

Q: You are the only 17-year-old on the team and the only student this year. It was an unusual step to see someone named to the team right out of U16. How did this feel?

A: Well it was a bit of a shock even though I had heard some chatter during the end of my U16 season. Let’s just say I wasn’t blindsided but it was still a surprise.

Q: Was it hard at all being the youngest on the team last year?

A: No not at all. I’ve always like training with older athletes so it was nothing new. This year might be a bit harder as I’m the only one on the team still in school. Last year Emma (Williamson) was also studying. I’ll be busy this year that’s for sure.

Q: How are you liking your new coach (Cam Stephen)?

A: He’s amazing. I immediately liked him in Mammoth. He’s very realistic which works well for me.

Q: What’s ahead – school next year or a gap year?

A: A gap year for sure so I can keep skiing! I have no doubt of that. I won’t bother applying to any Canadian schools this year, but I may write my SATs. I am learning quite a bit about the NCAA pathway from family friends who have athletes in other sports.

Q: Any ideas on what you’d like to study?

A: No clue!

Q: On the hill and in the gates, what is your strength?

A: hmmm I guess I’d have to say I’m quite calm. I don’t let stuff like bad snow or bad weather affect me at all. I don’t ever get freaked out. For example, in the start hut, I might be nervous, but I seem to be able to handle it. I can tell myself “I’ve got this.”

Q: That’s a really great ski-racing trait to have. Is this just natural for you or something you’ve had to work at?

A: I guess it’s just natural…plus I’ve had a lot of starts so practice helps.

SIDE NOTE: Ashley momentarily apologizes to me for sounding a bit distracted. She says to me, “Sorry I think there is a shooting right beside me. We’re downtown (Huntsville).” I reply “Are you ok? Should we resume this later?” …she says (very calmly I might add), “No, no, it’s perfectly fine, go on.” As it turns out there was a shooting that day in Huntsville.

Q: So we’ve determined you are in fact a calm person. What about your weaknesses?

A: I can get in a rut and stay in it. If I’m training and bothered by something it can get me down. I can get frustrated. I’m also someone who might explode as stuff will just build and build until it blows. I’d like to be able to tackle these frustrations as they come and make them smaller issues.

Q: What about your peers who might be leaving the sport now to pursue other things – is this hard on you?

A: No, not at all. It is normal at age 16, 17 in all sports I’m pretty sure. I do however think that too many really good skiers leave too soon. People just don’t believe in themselves enough. If you come say 10th in Nationals for example that is good. It’s 10th in the whole country!

Q: Were you happy with your season last year?

A: It was good but I was injured for half of it so I wish I could have raced more.

Q: You told me last year you wanted to ski for Canada one day. Is this still the case?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Last words, what do you say to the kids coming up behind you?

A: Chip Away. It is a hard sport, and it seems like our goals are far away but keep working, don’t expect drastic changes or quick changes but just keep chipping away.

~ Sounds to me like Ashley Campbell would also be an amazing ski coach. 😊

To read the other OST interviews or to learn more about this team please visit

By AOA Communication Manager, Kristin Ellis –
August 28th, 2019.

This interview is part of a series of Q&As with members of the Ontario Ski Team. Jayden is entering her 3rd year of FIS and her first year on the Ontario Ski Team. She grew up on the slopes of the Osler Bluff Ski Club and then moved to the National Ski Academy to complete her grade 11&12.


Q:  How is your summer?
A: Well I’m working a lot – probably 45 to 50 hours a week, but I’m up at my family cottage so I can’t complain.


Q: What kind of work is it you are doing?
A: I’m a day camp counsellor at the Ojibway Club during the day and often I work in the dining hall serving dinners so it can be long days. I also was just hired to be a gardener for the last few weeks of summer before we leave for Switzerland. I will continue working part-time this winter in Collingwood as a high school tutor.


Q: Wow this is a lot of work. The tutoring sounds amazing for your ski schedule. What level will you tutor?
A: I’m not sure just yet but likely grades 9 & 10.


Q: Does all this money go towards your skiing?
A: Oh yeah, if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t ski. I pay for it as much as I can, but I also get support from my ski club (Osler), Alpine Ontario and my grandparents as well.


Q: I’ve heard you are very academic – “brilliant” is what I’ve heard from some of your classmates. Is this true?  
A: (laughing)…Well yes, I do well in school. I finished grade 12 with a 96% average and have deferred an academic scholarship to McGill. It was hard to know what to study as I did equally well in all subjects… English, Maths, Sciences are all the same for me. I did apply to Astro Physics at most Canadian schools, but it was the B. Arts & Science program at McGill that seemed to be the best fit and I know I can continue to ski at McGill starting 2020.

Are you happy with how your season went last year?
A: Well not really. I wanted to see a bigger change in my FIS points, but it didn’t happen.  I did well – I’m not complaining, I just wanted to see more of a change.


Q: What are your goals for this season?
A: I’d like to improve my national rankings in SL/GS/SG for my age, hit the podium a bit more, make the flip in some Norms and win a race!


Q: What do you consider your main strength to be?
A: I’m a relaxed – go-with-the-flow type of person. I can take on a lot and big changes don’t really bother me. I travelled a lot with the men’s FIS team under Sami’s lead last year, so I guess this tested me. It was really fun.


Q: What about your weaknesses? What stands out here?
A: I can be stubborn. I stand my ground. I do see both sides of the situation but often a coach or teacher might not be aware that I do take it all in.


Q: How are you liking your new coach, Cam Stephen?
A: Cam is great so far. He seems to be good at accepting how I like to rephrase everything. I simply like to repeat what I’ve been told to ensure I know what they are asking of me. Cam is involved but not overbearing. I like to have my freedom as I learn.


Q: How did you like the indoor training camp in Germany?
A: Oh man that was hard! I came home covered in bruises as the surface is pure ice. It’s good for your skiing, however – you can’t hide anything technically.


Q: Last words. What is your advice to the younger skiers coming up through the system?
A: Be social, make friends wherever you go. It makes the whole sport experience more fun.

By AOA Communication Manager, Kristin Ellis – August 20th, 2019.

This interview is part of a series of Q&As with each member of the Ontario Ski Team. Britton is in his second year on the OST and 3rd year of FIS. He lives in Ottawa and is a member of the Camp Fortune Ski Club.

Q & A with OST Racer, Britton Quirk

Q: How is your summer so far?

A: It’s been really busy. After our camp in Mammoth in May, I took my SATs in early June and travelled to Germany for the OST July camp. I’ve been training in Ottawa at the Centre for Strength and Athlete Development 4 days a week, adding a track workout once a week with the Ottawa Lions.


Q: You took an unusual route to reach the OST. Tell us a little bit about this?

A: My brother and I started racing in Québec, but after my 1st year FIS our family decided to make the switch to the NCO team. Coach Joey Lavigne and Coach Randa Teschner were awesome! I had the opportunity to hang out and ski with the OST during races in Lake Placid. I really enjoyed Coach Cam and the Team. When I came back from that series, I told Coach Joey that I wanted to switch to Ontario. He was very supportive, and Coaches Kip and Cam gave me a shot.


Q: Was this an easy transition?

A: Not really. In February 2018, I broke my hand in 7 places on a GS gate and my season was over. I missed over 20 FIS races and was not sure whether this just ruined my chance to make the Ontario Team. Thankfully, Coaches Cam and Kip saw my potential.


Q: Looking ahead what are your goals this season?

A: I’d like to compete at the Nor-Am level and to continue to strive for excellence. Ultimately, my goal is to continue to strive to become the best athlete and ski racer I can be.


Q: So you don’t pick a series and say “Top 10” or “Podium” as other athletes might do?

A: I prefer a different approach to racing. I like to focus on playing full out because that’s the only thing I can control.


Q: Are you happy with how last season went?

A: Towards the end I was. During the last 6 weeks, I hit the podium 4 times. I felt like I was hitting my stride. Mentally, I was stronger and simply having more fun. Earlier in the season, I felt this constant pressure to prove that I belonged. To prove to the coaches they had made the right decision. I didn’t want to get cut. It all changed when Coaches Cam and Kip told me that they wanted me back for a 2nd year.


Q: So aside from skiing what else are you dreaming about?

A: Education is really important to me. My plan is to do my undergraduate in Finance and then go to Law School. I’m talking with NCAA coaches right now. My SATs went well.


Q: How well? . sorry, Britton, we know you graduated from high school earning the Governor Generals Award so I’m curious as to how you did on your SATs?

A: Ahh… ok… Yes, I did well… I scored in the 97th percentile in math and 95th percentile overall.


Q: Wow that’s really great – congratulations.  So you have no doubt that the NCAA pathway is where you’ll end up?

A: Yes, I’m 100% sure I’ll be racing NCAA. I have so much more potential to grow as a racer. I want to continue to pursue racing at the highest level that I can, and see what happens. I believe the NCAA circuit is a perfect fit for me – high-level racing with high-level academics.


Q: Do you have any advice for skiers in grade 12 about managing school, getting great grades at the same time as competing at the FIS level?

A: The best advice I can give: play full out with everything you do. Train hard, study hard and ski hard. Be organized and communicate with your teachers and coaches.


Q: So you enjoyed year on the OST. It was a small team of just 3 of you, was this good or bad?

A: I loved our group. Sam and Aaron as teammates gave me intensity when I needed it, but they know how to chill as well.


Q: What about Cam McKenzie as a coach – what did you like about him?

A: He explains the tasks really well and helps us visualize it. He is also good at supporting us emotionally – at times we just need to be told not to worry. He has been and continues to be instrumental in my growth.


Q: And Kip?

A: People assume Kip is a super intense coach, but he’s not. For sure he and Cam have expectations, but they are very supportive. Personally, Kip knows how to bring out the best in me.


Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Staying focused on the right things. I am learning to only focus on the things that I can control. I cannot always control the things around me, but I can control the things within me.


Q: What about the sport itself, what is the challenge here?

A: We train so hard and for so long to compete in a race that will last about 2 minutes. When things go well, all is good. When the race lasts 15 seconds… you start to question whether it’s worth it. You don’t get a second or third chance during the game like other sports.


Q: Is it worth it?

A: To me it is. I believe that ski racing has developed me into the person I am today. It has taught me to train hard, play full out, lay it on the line, and to go after my dreams.


Q: What about your own personal challenges?

A: One of my personal challenges is to remind myself to have fun while going after it.


Last words? “If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. Have fun.”

By AOA Communication Manager, Kristin Ellis – August 12th, 2019.

This interview is part of a series of Q&As with members of the Ontario Ski Team. Emma is currently in her 2nd year with the OST and raced on the SOD Ski Team for one year prior to this. She is from the Alpine Ski Club and lives in Ancaster.

A year ago we chatted at the gym about your plans on the OST. You were quite sure you’d just do one year on the team and would be heading to U of T this coming fall. So, what changed and why?

EMMA: Well I did apply to U of T and Laurier and was accepted to both schools but around January last winter I realized that I couldn’t bear to stop skiing at this level just yet. It just didn’t feel right to me, I just wanted a bit more time. I felt I needed to explore my options and give myself the chance to fully commit to skiing for a year without the stresses of school.


AOA: Now here we are a year later and you are on a gap year. How did this go over at home? I know you have a twin (Ben who raced on the SOD Ski Team) who is off to McGill so I’m wondering how your parents felt about this?

EMMA: It took some convincing for sure! I explained to them that I wanted to dedicate myself to skiing for a year and see where it would take me. In the end, they supported me as they always have, and knowing that I’m working hard towards a goal also helped.


AOA: Did you defer or are you now looking to reapply?

EMMA: I did defer at Laurier for an Arts Program but this spring my new coach Cam Stephen talked to me a lot about skiing on the NCAA circuit. I had felt I could navigate a ski career while continuing my education here in Canada, but he has made me realize NCAA might be an option for me. So right now, I’m prepping for my SATS which I’ll write early October.


AOA: So, no summer job?

EMMA: Well that was the plan, but instead I’m studying for my SATS by taking a prep course, focusing on my dryland and the team has also been on snow twice for far this spring/summer.


AOA: Looking back on last year are you happy with your season?

EMMA: Yes, it was a big growing year for me and I learned so much, but a definite highlight for me was that I finally won a race! I had really never stood on the top of the podium before. And then once I won once, I won a few times…it was really great to get the reassurance that I really can do it.

AOA: Why do you think this happened?

EMMA: It was a great team dynamic last year, we all pushed each other.

AOA: Was Katie (Twible..OST women’s head coach last year) a big factor? That must have been hard to see her go.

EMMA: Yes, Katie was such an amazing coach and she helped me ski better and accomplish things I never had before. When Katie told me the news that she got an amazing opportunity with the US Ski Team, I was so happy for her, but I also cried. I guess I felt a bit of fear losing her…when you lose a great coach you think you have to start over and question if you want to do that but now that I look back I realize a new coach isn’t a bad thing. We’re all really enjoying working with Cam (Stephen) so really there was no reason for me to be worried.


AOA: What are your goals this year?

EMMA: NCAA is the end goal but hitting the top 30 in Nor-Ams in both SL and GS would be great. I’d also like to get back in the mix in SG. I also really want to keep working on my confidence so it’s more a mindset than an actual result that I’m looking to get.


AOA: Is confidence an issue?

EMMA:  It would be my weakness for sure. I just need to know that I can do it. I can overthink things and that feeds into my nerves.

AOA: What would your strength be?

EMMA: Probably my drive and determined attitude towards skiing. But I also just really love this sport. Ski racing has a lot of ups and downs- if you’re at a race series and three or even four of those race days were really difficult and not what you wanted, and you can still come out of it loving the sport –  that’s really all that matters.


AOA: Katie used to rave about what a hard worker you are, and I’ve seen how focused you are in the CSIO gym. Is the CSIO program a big help to the Team?

EMMA: Yes absolutely, it has really ramped up the entire OST. We go in there and see Olympians and are surrounded by like-minded athletes who are representing Canada. It is so motivating for us. It makes me want to be better. It’s great to see my CSIO results and know that I’m getting stronger, and what I do in the gym also helps me become more confident on snow too.


AOA: Who else is supporting you? I’m guessing your parents.

EMMA: Yes, they are super supportive. They are the same parents whether I win or I’m 4 seconds back, and I’m so grateful to have that in my life. And they let me take a gap year to ski so that’s pretty amazing!


Learn more about the Ontario Ski Team here>

JULY 18TH, 2019

Sam Duff is currently ranked 1st in Canada in SL for his age and is the 4th overall Jr. in SL. He is entering his 3rd year on the Ontario Ski Team and is from Pembroke, ON and the Calabogie Ski Racing Club.

AOA caught up with Sam upon his return from Wittenburg, Germany to talk about indoor skiing.


AOA: Indoor skiing seems like an odd choice when skiers generally love being outside. What did you think of it?
SAM: Well it’s very different of course. It is not the excitement of a big mountain like visiting Mammoth or Whistler but is perfect for specific drill development, which, in July, is what we are all working on.
The beauty of this facility is the course is right there…you get off the chairlift and you step immediately onto a course. This allows us to fit in a high volume. It is a short course (25seconds or so) but it is perfect for identifying what you need to be working on. The snow is injected so it’s unforgiving, it is not easy to ski if you have a major weakness. It forces your technique to come out – you can’t hide is I guess what I’m trying to say. Your bad technique comes out so you can then work on fixing it.

AOA: This is your 3rd year on the OST, why are you not off to College or University like many of your peers?
SAM: Well if I combined school with skiing, I’d have less time to focus on my skiing. Right now, I want to focus on the sport. I also love our coaches – Cam (McKenzie) and Kip are an amazing team, there’s no other coaching staff I’d rather be with. They are the best coaches I’ve had in my life.

AOA: So, what are your goals this year?
SAM: Nor-Ams are my focus. I should be hitting the top 15 in SL events and in GS I’m looking to make some 2nd runs.

AOA: We see you on the river a ton in your social media posts @sammyduff1234 – how does Whitewater kayaking fit in these days?
SAM: It’s still my main summer sport. Right now, I’m working with a Whitewater camp teaching kids but I’m also always out on the river practising. I hope to attend the Team Canada Time Trials for Worlds in 2021. I attended the 2017 World Championships in Argentina as a junior.

AOA: How do you manage to stay so competitive in two sports?
SAM: Kayaking is different than skiing in that I can keep up with my skills and unlike skiing doesn’t mean I have to always be competing to make Team Canada. Skiing is harder to reach the top level since you have to travel a lot, and you travel all year round.

AOA: Do your kayaking friends compare with your ski friends? By that I mean are they similarly “committed”?
SAM: Yes, for sure, they are the same sort of people, I guess. Everyone is super active and committed to what they do – whether it’s on snow or the water.

AOA: What’s your biggest challenge as a ski racer?
SAM: Without a doubt, it’s the commitment. It’s a different sport than say hockey which is everywhere and easier to do all the time. We have hockey rinks in every single town here in Canada. Skiing means chasing the snow, which is amazing, but we miss out on all the normal stuff.

AOA: What is your biggest strength as a ski racer?
SAM: I guess it’s my mindset. If I feel like I can do it, I dive right in and I do it.

LAST WORDS? For sure skiing takes a lot of time, practice and hard work but hey it’s no fun being normal, right?

Submitted by Stefan Overgaard, Owner of SXS Fitness in Toronto

One of the biggest challenges we see with young athletes is the difficulty of sticking to a consistent fitness routine. Due to so many other commitments, there isn’t always enough time to get to the gym.  If you really want to make noticeable fitness gains, you need to be training a minimum 2-3 times per week in the gym (in addition to participating in other sports).  For younger athletes, frequency specifically in the gym is less important and I would NOT sacrifice doing other sports in favour of more gym time.  However, as you approach second-year U16 and certainly FIS you must ramp up your commitment in getting to the gym. While I’ll always recommend getting to a fully equipped training facility with professional supervision, that’s not always realistic.

A secondary option would be setting up a home gym.  Sure, having a full squat rack with Olympic barbell and weights, treadmill, spin bike, benches, dumbbells, pulley system etc. is great, but many don’t have the room or the budget for this.  An effective home gym can easily be done without much space and requires a minimum investment.  Any good fitness professional can build a very effective training program for a wide variety of fitness levels with these simple pieces of equipment:

  • TRX Suspension Trainer
  • Stability Ball
  • Box
  • A few Kettlebells
  • A few Resistance Bands

These items can all that can easily fit in the trunk of a car as well, so a home gym can also be a portable gym.  The bottom line is when you can’t make it into the gym, be sure to have other options available.  You can get a workout in with 30min or less, so there really isn’t any excuse not to be able to get in some form of training.  This is especially important in the summer months when many are away at cottages, travelling, camp etc.  If you can’t have a home/mobile gym available with a proper training program set up, try to get to an actual gym.  Not having the time, space or equipment should never be a reason not to train.  Remember you can have results or excuses; you can’t have both!

**If you have specific questions about gym set up and programming please feel free to contact Stefan directly

December 13th, 2018 — This week we catch up with Philippe Richer from our National Capital Division (NCD) to talk all things ‘volunteering’. Phillipe is the Volunteer Chair with the Camp Fortune Ski Club (CF). As a true team effort, combining the leadership of the Club Program Director Patrick Biggs and the support of the whole Board of Director functions, CF have successfully turned the tide of volunteering at this club from an ‘ask’ to a ‘mandatory requirement’.

Q: What is your official role with Camp Fortune?

A: I’m a proud parent to an NGSL racer and U12 racer. I have two volunteer jobs. I’m the NGSL Parent Chair which is busy as we can have up to 110 NGSL racers! I’m also on the CF Board of Directors as the Volunteer Chair. This, of course, is an even busier job since many parents have a lot to learn about ski racing and the important role of volunteering. Our sport is unlike many others where you can simply drop your kids off and go home. To run a race we need bodies and lots of them!

Q: Can you briefly describe the Volunteer Policy at Camp Fortune?

It’s an evolving program based on research at several Quebec clubs that includes ‘volunteer days’ and a credit system using a financial deposit. The time commitment is as follows:

  • Nancy Greene (NG): Family time contribution of 3 days per registered athlete including a minimum of 1 day outside of NG events and up to 2 days of shadowing/training roles.
  • U Categories: Family time contribution of 5 days per registered athlete including a minimum of 0.5 days of weekday functions.
  • A maximum requirement of 10 days per family.

The refundable Financial Deposit is:

  • NG: $150 refundable at the end of each season on compliance with the policy.
  • U Categories: $250 refundable at the end of each season on compliance with the policy.

 Q: Does the credit system work?

A: We found that 1/3 will do it no questions asked, the next 1/3 will help with lots of effort and the last 1/3 just won’t do it at all if we just use the financial risks for non-compliance. Money is not enough to make it happen was an important lesson learned.  

Q: What happens if members don’t comply?

A: Last year and this season parents simply lose their deposit. Since we just launched the new policy on October 2018, we have a two-step process which we want to be progressive, impactful and educational at the same time.

Year 1 at CF Racing Program, non-compliance with the policy will result in no refund.
Year 2 will result in not allowing athletes to be registered in CFSC racing programs for the following season. This is routine at several Quebec clubs, in fact at Mont Ste. Anne parents are fined $175/day if they are not present during an event of which they have been assigned.

Q: Do members find this policy a bit extreme?

A: We’ve been very clear with our communications – and we communicate a lot! The club started last year by explaining to its members that the programs are at risk without volunteers. When a family becomes members of the Club, they sign on to our philosophy. Simply put, we are a family-contribution-driven, not-for-profit organization. We rely on the participation of families to run the races and events to ensure safe and successful experiences for all of its athletes. The last thing we want is to cancel an event due to lack of volunteers, the reason why this policy and the support of the whole Board of Director functions, especially all the parent chairs, race operations, and training is so important to be impactful and successful.

Q: Are you succeeding?

A: Yes but we are far from over! In our first year of launching our pilot project with the NG, we were able to reduce our “non-compliance” ( i.e. they didn’t volunteer) numbers by half!  Now with the policy officially in place, we are targeting an almost 100% compliance within two years across all of our racing categories.

 Q: What do you attribute this success to?

A: Many things are working together. First of all, we have an integrated approach to volunteering which starts with a comprehensive training strategy lead by Kerry Fagan. We ask that all new club members take their Level I Officials. Once this base is developed we use a ‘shadowing’ program so the new Officials are paired up with more experienced parents who can provide training.  We also rotate the volunteers around a lot to encourage them to learn new roles – for example you cannot always be a starter, or at the bottom, we ask that the volunteers learn many different jobs. We also host training days where we practice what it’s like to be a Gate Judge or even build a Course with the netting. Also key are the parent chairs that support on all fronts, especially on advising each family on volunteering opportunities, and not just on their own category, across the whole club events, we are a family and all must support each other is our mantra!

Q: This sounds like a ton of ‘organizing’ on your part. What does this involve?

A: Well I send a lot of emails! Here are some tricks we’ve learned:

  • Don’t collect the ‘financial’ deposit at the same time as registration, this confuses members. Make it a separate payment entirely. We learned that many families were pleased to buy out their volunteer obligation with money. The Club does not do this for more money rather they do it for more volunteers!
  • Don’t send emails out from the “Club account”, use a person instead – a personal touch works.
  • Make it bilingual if your members are, it is highly appreciated by the community as a whole and makes the club fully inclusive and diverse at the same time.
  • Families are closely linked to their respective parent chairs; parents are invited to follow up with their respective Parent Chairs to discuss their potential contribution to the organization.
  • Create a schedule for the entire season, not single events. Send out the schedule and then require the sign up by a certain date in order to qualify. At Mont Ste Anne they require the sign to be completed within a week and then they start assigning roles.
  • Use Sign-Up Genius ( and block off the key volunteer jobs so the new volunteers can fill in around these.
    • Be sure to focus on mid-week days as these are the hardest to fill. It’s easier if parents know in November the entire winter so they can block a few days off work.
    • Be realistic and comprehensive– some parents have valid excuses like an illness.

Q: What clubs in Quebec did you research?

A: Mont Sutton in the Eastern Townships, Mont Ste. Anne and Mont Tremblant. Sutton is interesting with a cap on their program in terms of athletes. This allows them to turn parents away who don’t volunteer. The Best-In-Class volunteer policy we found was from Mont Sainte-Anne (French only):

Q: What are your goals for this season and beyond?

A: Currently the Club has more than 250 athletes and the vast majority of families have at least one member that has a Level1, close to 40 have a level II and we are exploring for some Level III. For the 2019-2020 season, we’re aiming to see 100% of families having a Level I, and then from here, using the Level II Shadowing program, we can hope we can have a strong volunteer base in the years to come.

It really is all about education. Three years ago I didn’t even know the difference between a Slalom race and a Giant Slalom race. I knew absolutely nothing about ski racing. I grew up as a competitive cyclist training and cross-country skier so this sport was all new to us. I have learned so much under the CF umbrella. Many parents are somewhat afraid of making a mistake which is why we have practice days, lots of shadowing opportunities and a great support network from all the functions of the Board of Director.

Simply put, our members know that if we don’t do this we won’t have a program, and all of the athletes and families are proud to contribute to the success of the organization!

Readers can find the Camp Fortune Volunteer Policy online here


AOA thanks Phillipe for his time. When not working at Camp Fortune with the kids and the volunteers Phillipe manages supply chain management research in aerospace and advanced manufacturing for industry consortia’s and lecture logistics on-demand at Universities such as IVEY and HEC Paris.


(November 25, 2018) Collingwood, ON — Over the last few weeks, we’ve caught up with Ally Dandy to learn more about coaching opportunities for women. Ally is currently enrolled in the Women in Coaching Canada Games Apprenticeship Program, a partnership between The Canada Games Council and The Coaching Association of Canada. As she explained during this AOA Q&A this program provides the opportunity for each province and territory to send two female coaches to the Canada Games in apprenticeship roles. Ally’s mentor is Georgian Peak coach Heather Metzger, U16 OCUP Head Coach, and AOA U16 Consultant on the Athletic Committee.


Q: How did you get involved in coaching?

A: I grew up racing at Milton Heights Racing Club, my whole family was involved at the club while my brother and I were racing. I started working as an apprentice coach with our junior development teams when I was in U16. For the last couple years of my racing career, I was coaching alongside my racing schedule. From that moment on, I knew that coaching was something I really wanted to pursue!


Q: What coaching level do you have?

A: I have my Development Level (DL) trained certification. During my involvement in this apprenticeship role I will be completing my development level certified level and begin my performance level certification.


Q: How did you find out about this program? 

A: I saw this program promoted on the Coaches Association of Canada Twitter feed. I kept it in the back of my mind for a couple weeks and then decided that if I really wanted to possibly have this opportunity, I would make balancing school and this program happen.


Q: When did you start?

A: The applications to the program closed last November. I was fortunate to find out that I was one of two Ontario coaches selected for the program in January. The early months were all about learning what the program was about, being introduced to a mentor and understanding the desired outcomes at the end of the Canada Games.


Q: What have you done so far?

A: In April, all the apprentice coaches met in Calgary. We participated in professional development, NCCP courses, and CAAWS (Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport) workshops. We also were able to visit and tour the Win Sport Facilities and the Canada Sport’s Hall of Fame. In between these two events, I have been working on my NCCP courses and working with Heather Metzger, my mentor.

In the fall I participated in the U16 High Performance Program retreat in the Collingwood area working alongside Heather, Duncan, Stefan and Graeme and the 30+ athletes. I learned more about the U16 HPP program and the yearly training plan of these athletes.

This month I attended the AOA Coaches Conference in Caledon and following this traveled to Ottawa for the Canada Sport Leadership Conference. On top of the conference, we also participated in workshops with the CAC coaching staff and national team coaches from a variety of sports to introduce us to the Canada Games and talk about women in coaching. The next time we all see each other will be at the Canada Games in the Coach House!


Q: Tell us more about the Canada Sport Leadership Conference in Ottawa.

A: The Sport Leadership Conference was truly an amazing experience. Being surrounded by so many like-minded people created this buzz all week long. Many of the speakers presented on very hot topics in the sport industry right now. It was very beneficial to walk away with updated knowledge on Rowan’s Law, the future of multi-sport in Canada, and how to improve well-being, culture and performance by Jim Moss.

My number one take away from the event as a whole would be from Jim Moss, the CEO of Plasticity Labs. He taught me that skills like gratitude, optimism, perseverance and self-efficacy which can be taught and used in the sport world and everyday life. He shared the positive aspects of journaling and using a moment of gratitude to positively change his day around. In the constant hustle and bustle of the life we all live in, it was great to hear all these initiatives to slow your day down and live in the moment.


Q: What happens next leading up to the February 23rd start of the Canada Games?

A: Between now and Christmas, I am currently working on finishing my NCCP development modules and finishing up my semester at school (Nursing at McMaster). Over Christmas break, I am planning to work with Heather on-hill. I then will be working with Heather at the Ontario Mid-Winter Race Series February 1-4th where the athletes will be qualifying for the Games. Lastly we will be at the Canada Games from February 23-March 3rd.


Q: What is your goal as a coach?

A: So far I’ve been an apprentice with a Junior Development Team and was selected as the Canadian female representative at the 2013 FIS Alpine World Championships International Youth Camp. Both of these experiences left me with an unwavering passion for coaching. I want to inspire and motivate athletes to be the best version of themselves through sport.

This program is giving me the opportunity to be working alongside high performance coaches at a multi-sport event. As I can see myself coaching high performance athletes in the future, this will be the first step in achieving my goal.

Thank you Alpine Ontario for the support in this program!


For more information contact:
Kristin Ellis
Communications Manager
Alpine Ontario Alpin (AOA)
705-444-5111 x 132