High Volt­age

SkiTrax - - Contents - By Emily Nishikawa

by Emily Nishikawa

Iwas born and raised White­horse, Yukon, and, from a young age, learned to ski at the White­horse Cross-coun­try Ski Club. The ski club, lo­cated right in the city and a 10-minute drive from my house, has more than 100 kilo­me­tres of ski trails. Over the years, the Yukon Ski Team has pro­duced an ex­cep­tional num­ber of high-level skiers, and I am of­ten asked, “What is it about the Yukon?” The Yukon has a pop­u­la­tion of 36,000 and its cap­i­tal, White­horse, has a pop­u­la­tion of 27,000, and this year, three of the 12 Cana­dian Na­tional Se­nior Team ath­letes are from White­horse. I of­ten joke that the Yukon pro­duces so many good skiers be­cause we have long win­ters with lots of snow. While that is very true, there is so much more to the story than that.

I joined the Yukon Ski Team at 13 years old, and it was dur­ing my early teen years that my love for cross-coun­try ski­ing de­vel­oped. I be­lieve it had to do with its sup­port­ive com­mu­nity. I had great team­mates, coaches and fam­ily – an en­tire com­mu­nity be­hind me! I had many role mod­els from White­horse to look up to, in­clud­ing Lucy Steele-mas­son and many of my older team­mates. See­ing them per­form was mo­tiv­ing and in­spir­ing.

Our sum­mer-train­ing camps went some­thing like this: Pack your tent, sleep­ing bag and mat­tress. Pack a Cole­man stove, cook­ing uten­sils and enough food for a week in a cooler. Bring run­ning shoes and roller­skis as well. Set up a base camp in in­cred­i­ble nearby wilder­ness ar­eas such as Atlin, B.C. or Haines, Alaska. Each day, em­bark on our train­ing work­outs. As a young teen, some of the most epic and mem­o­rable hikes I have ever done oc­curred in these very train­ing camps. With the guid­ance of Coach Alain Mas­son, we tack­led Atlin Moun­tain ev­ery year, which could some­times take up to 12 hours, in­clud­ing two hours of pad­dling a voyageur ca­noe to and from the moun­tain. Al­though I would be in­cred­i­bly tired af­ter such ad­ven­tures, I also fin­ished each day with an in­cred­i­ble sense of ac­com­plish­ment, which fu­elled my pas­sion for the sport.

I had an amaz­ing group of team­mates and friends with me on the Yukon Ski Team, whom I'm still great friends with to­day. We worked hard, es­pe­cially at these train­ing camps, but, most of all, we had fun! The coaches fos­tered an amaz­ing en­vi­ron­ment for all of us and in­stilled a life­long love of the sport and the out­doors. I feel so for­tu­nate to have been a part of the pro­gram, and I have so many great mem­o­ries of the amaz­ing places we trained at around the Yukon.

So when I'm asked why the Yukon pro­duces such tal­ent, my an­swer is that there is an en­tire com­mu­nity to sup­port ev­ery young up-and-com­ing ath­lete. Each ath­lete gets the chance to train in one of the most spec­tac­u­lar en­vi­ron­ments in the world, in a way that makes you want to come back and do it again to­mor­row!

Happy trails!

Nishikawa cred­its the amaz­ing sup­port of the Yukon com­mu­nity and the spec­tac­u­lar en­vi­ron­ment for pro­duc­ing top level ath­letes.

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