Off To The Races: Mount Sima FIS Event

Talks of having a ski race, as part of Mount Sima’s pre-season training program, were already happening two years ago, according to general manager Sam Oettli. It was last winter that talks got more serious, when a group of coaches got involved and Mount Sima enlisted the help of Alpine Yukon for the Fédération Internationale de Ski/International Ski Federation (FIS) application process.

Because of uncertainty around when the pandemic would wind down enough for racers to come from other parts of the world to participate, the planning process had its hurdles. But Oettli and his team knew they wanted to take their time to prepare and to host a major event, once it was possible to do so with little to no restrictions in place.

“It definitely made us think that once the pandemic was over, or at least at a point where things are closer to normal, that we could better facilitate such an event,” said Oettli. “Also, that would mean our pre-season would be back up and running, because the pandemic definitely slowed that down a lot when travel wasn’t exactly a thing a lot of people could do.”

With lots of preparation going into the race, Oettli is looking forward to seeing it all come together and what it will mean for local skiers to get to experience the event.

“Just having a race of this calibre is going to be awesome to witness and be part of,” he said. “I’m also really looking forward to the opportunity for local clubs and athletes to be exposed to this level of race and to see it grow over the years.”

Oettli goes on to say he already has plans to work to develop this race into a yearly event at Mount Sima, with this year’s edition being the kickoff. This race is also the first Canadian FIS race to be hosted during the 2022–2023 season. Oettli is thrilled to be hosting a landmark event like this and said that clubs and teams, from far and wide, immediately expressed interest in sending athletes to participate upon hearing about the race.

“It’s definitely a nice little badge of honour, if you want to call it that,” said Oettli. “It definitely caught the attention of those in the race world that we were going to be doing this.”

Standard FIS races involve criteria that participating athletes must meet, like having a race number they’re issued when they reach a certain level of skiing, and using those numbers, they can sign up for certain races. Oettli says at least half, if not more, of the athletes taking part in this year’s race will already be in Whitehorse and at Sima for the pre-season training.

“On the days of the race, the 18th and the 19th, [the athletes] show up very early in the morning, get their bits and everything, and then there will be some meetings with the race organizers,” said Oettli. “Then they head up and go slam some gates.”

Oettli and his team are also working on setting up some spectator stations at the base and the finish line, so people can watch the beginning and end of the races.

“It’ll be pretty interesting to see how many folks want to come out and have a look and see these awesome athletes come ripping down a mountain,” said Oettli.

Oettli said that Sima has excellent terrain for the size of mountain that it is, and its FIS-sanctioned race run, Dan’s Descent, has the terrain features that many professional teams seek out for training purposes.

“Having a race this early in the season for them is usually good,” said Oettli. They then can go into the next set of races already with some points, and that helps some of these athletes in their starting positions as they enter into other races.”

Oettli made a point of thanking Sport Yukon, who have given Mount Sima a lot of behind-the-scenes people power to help them put this event together, and he has already roped in lots of volunteers to make the event run smoothly.

“There’s going to be a volunteer call-out in the coming weeks that will probably come through Sport Yukon,” Oettli noted.

There are lots of officials and coaches who will be coming up and helping with the event, as they have certifications required by the FIS for certain jobs.

“We’re hoping that will help foster and grow the possibility for people to get those certifications up here,” said Oettli.

Races will take place on Dan’s Descent. Giant Slalom will happen on November 18, with the slalom race going on November 19. Currently, it is estimated that 80 alpine skiers will take to the slopes for the two-day event. The FIS is the highest international governing body for skiing and snowboarding.

Mount Sima’s pre-season training regularly brings some of Canada’s best winter athletes to the hill. The FIS race will attract alpine skiers from several parts of the world, making it an exciting event for travellers and locals alike.

“It’s super exciting for our Mount Sima team,” said Oettli. “We’ve been working on this in the background for quite some time and seeing if there was any interest from clubs and teams from across the country. There was a lot of interest. That’s why we moved forward.”

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