Misson: Vancouver; Start line: Vail
Late last winter in Whistler, British Columbia, Canadian Skiercross Team Chief Executive Officer Cam Bailey was sitting down for a meal when the topic of the X Games came up. The waitress mentioned that her cousin had participated in the X Games. And thats when Vails Chris DelBosco, who wasnt born in Canada, got his tryout with the 2010 Olympic Canadian Skiercross Team.DelBoscos cousin told Bailey that Dell DelBosco, Chriss father, was Canadian.It was sort of immediate, Bailey said. The wheels were turning.Months later, after a training camp that served as a tryout, DelBosco was added to the squad a full-time commitment leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Games. And just this month, DelBosco went to Canada to begin training with the team.After a young career as a ski racer, DelBosco, 25, moved to the up-and-coming sport of skiercross when he was still a teenager. When DelBosco started participating, skiercross only had about four events a year but year by year it grew, and in November 2006, the International Olympic Committee announced it would add skiercross for the 2010 Olympics.I never thought it was going to go this far, DelBosco said. I thought ski racing was the end of my Olympic dream.Now, DelBosco will have the chance to stand on the podium at the worlds premier athletic gathering. And the man who will hopefully be coaching DelBosco and the squad to medals is Eric Archer, who spent years racing out of Vail and still owns an apartment in the area. Following a solid ski-racing career, Archer moved into what was then the new sport of skiercross and has been a mainstay in the sport ever since. Now, hes emerged as the first coach of what is essentially the first real team.I knew (Cam) from competing in (skiercross) events in Canada, Archer said. He was one of the crazy Canucks the Canadian national downhill guys and would come to skiercross events and just compete. He would pick my brain and ask questions about how he should be running the course.In March, when Archer was up in Canada running the first camp for a group of potential team members, Bailey approached him about a full-time position.He told me, There arent any coaches in the sport yet, but I think youd be pretty good at it, Archer said. He didnt know if Id be retiring or not, … but he offered me the job after (the camp).
For both Bailey and Archer, picking DelBosco was an easy choice.Id raced with him at X Games qualifiers, Bailey said. The kid is incredibly talented and had a real gift and a real touch on his skis. I knew a bit about his background, and the other guys who raced against him told me quite about his background.Our talent (pool) is limited to an alpine base, and Chris, being an individual who has raced some, had a huge advantage over someone who came right over from alpine.Archer was confident that DelBosco was going to impress his potential teammates during the first camp.In the world of skiercross, everyone knows who Chris DelBosco is, Archer said. Hes an up-and-coming guy. He has been a little hit-and-miss, and sometimes youd wonder what would happen next. It was important for me to get him up to the camp because hes an American switching to a Canadian passport, and there could have been resentment from some guys. I told him, Just come up and perform and win the time trial and youll change their minds. And thats what happened. There were two standouts at camp, and he was one of them. Theyre happy to have him on the team, and he makes the team strong.After the first camp which was held on a glacier in a permanent ski area developed by the Canadian Olympic Development Association for the 1988 Calgary Games DelBosco was named to the mens team along with three others. One team member, Stan Hayer, was in a situation similar to DelBoscos in that he could have chosen to race under the Czech flag.For DelBosco, joining the team was an easy choice.Its going to give me the best opportunity to help them win a gold medal, and it will help me fulfill a lifelong dream Ive had, he said. Weve got a pretty solid team Ive been competing with the guys for six years, and I get along with them better than anyone else on the circuit.Archer, who is an American, also was quick to jump at the offer from the Canadian team and knows exactly why DelBosco did.Its a no-brainer when theres nothing going on in the United States and everyone is basically privateers, Archer said.And with little sponsorship available, its almost financially impossible to be a privateer.
Thanks to the Own the Podium initiative and the Canadian Snow Sports Association, the Canadian Skiercross Team is financially backed for the next three years.Its a $1 million budget to operate each year, Bailey said.Along with salaries, the racers have access to part-time staff like physical therapists, massage therapists, training coaches and nutritionists. And the team also has one of the best ski technicians out there.We went after Daron Rahlves old ski tech, Willie Wiltz, Bailey said. I gave him our plan and vision, and he said that we were committed to success.One of the biggest advantages the team will have is a full-sized course at its disposal for the winter.If your training is limited to participating in races, you have one day of training and the most runs you get will be five. The next day is the race, and if you are lucky, you get eight runs. If all you did was the Honda Ski Tour, youd have 40 runs for the year. Well have 40 runs in one week.Another distinct advantage the team will boast is some knowledge of the terrain. The teams course will be at the Cyprus Skiing Area, where the races will be held in 2010.There is some home-field advantage, Bailey said. And the course designer (for the Olympics) is Canadian, and he does a lot of building at our camps, and he was the (boardercross) course builder at Torino. There are a lot of variables we have control over when we get down to the event.This summer, while competing in professional mountain-bike races, DelBosco was training with Ski & Snowboard Club Vails John Cole, getting ready for the winter.(The Canadians) have it pretty dialed in, DelBosco said. Its a great plan. Give us some time to get to 100 percent prepared and when the gate drops there are no guarantees in skiercross but we wont have any excuse not to do well. Well be primed when it rolls around.Vancouver may be a while away, but there are plenty of races until then, as the team will be competing in the Jeep King of the Mountain races, X Games and about 10 World Cup races.Weve got a pretty full schedule and a pretty awesome opportunity ahead, DelBosco said.For more, check out http://www.ski-cross.ca.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.