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Canadian University Cross-Country Ski Racing

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

By Kevin Shields, Canadian Wintersports Inc.

The strength of the university cross-country ski scene in Canada is growing. Several universities have competitive cross-country ski teams that participate in regional and national competitions and offer training and support for student-athletes. In recent years, Laval University has developed a nationally competitive team, finishing as the top men’s and 4th women’s teams at Nationals in 2022. Then there is the University of Calgary which has suddenly appeared as a strong team, with their women’s team taking top place at Nationals last winter. Varsity cross-country skiing is becoming a more competitive ski racing culture and a viable athletic development option for Canadian skiers.

Although Calgary and Laval may have topped the aggregate points at Nationals last winter, the Ontario conference is dominant in Canadian University skiing. With ten Universities offering ski programs, the number of skiers surpasses other Canadian University sports conferences. This was also reflected on the Canadian Team at the recent FISU Games (World University Games) in Lake Placid, NY, with seven of the eleven Canadian skiers attending Ontario Universities. Additionally, U of Ottawa had three Biathetes on Team Canada for FISU, with Shilo Rousseau having spectacular games, with multiple medals. (See more about Shilo’s FISU results below.)

For the eleven Canadian cross-country skiers competing in the FISU Winter Games, it was an exciting, high-level international competition, with the experience of meeting other student-athletes from different countries, cultures and traditions. Managing the training, travel and competition demands of skiing at this level with university courses takes commitment, passion and support. I asked a few of the athletes on the team about their FISU experience, how they manage sport and skiing and what gives them joy from skiing. Here are their responses:

Kate Mason, Carleton University (3rd-year Biology student)

  • The biggest aspect of skiing for me is the people. I love training and racing with my teammates and being able to meet new people from across Canada and around the world. The ski community is really what keeps me going.

  • I find it challenging to balance skiing and school; despite the challenge of balancing it all, skiing is a lot of fun and teaches me life skills that I would otherwise not have.

Photo credit: Eric Nicol, Left to right: Bronwyn Williams, Kate Mason, Aidan Kirkham.

Bronwyn Williams (4th-year Psychology student, Carleton University)

  • My highlight from the trip was probably the fact that I was able to share this experience with ten other super awesome student-athletes. The team was really supportive of one another, and I found it interesting to chat with my teammates about their competitive skiing/school endeavours and their mental insight around ski racing.

  • I love racing. I don't consider myself an incredibly emotional person, but the beauty of being a competitive cross-country skier is that competing subjects you to emotional extremes that you would not otherwise experience outside of a high-performance setting. I have skied for many years but am still astonished by the amount of growth I still feel I have to do in this sport, and that is incredibly exciting!

Robin Mason (2nd-year business student, University of Calgary)

  • FISU is very different than most of my competitions. It's a multisport event, so there are always many things going on besides just ski races. The team relay was a really fun event; even though I didn't ski as well as I would have liked, the team atmosphere was inspiring, and I finished with one of the strongest results Canada has had, FISU. Another highlight would be the CAD US hockey final on the last day. Almost all Canadian athletes came to watch, bringing a lot of excitement and passion to the game that was fun to be a part of.

  • It can be hard at times to achieve success with both [school and skiing]; sometimes, you need to skip a workout or not put as much time into studying as you'd like. However, it is becoming more achievable for skiers in Canada!

Alex Maycock (Master Student, Nipissing University)

  • The great people involved in the sport are such a positive aspect. Challenging myself is always fun- that can look so different from year to year based on school and other interests.

  • I was proud of our team. 6 athletes earned top 30 finishes, and two skied into the top 20. The team proved that the Canadian varsity ski circuit is solid and bound, only to continue getting stronger.

Congratulations to the members of the FISU team. All the best to you and your University teammates in the second half of the winter season. I hope to see you racing this winter and you or a younger teammate at the next FISU games! Well done, Team Canada!


Ontario University Athletics: Nordic Skiing

Ten Ontario Universities have Cross-Country Ski Teams:

  • Lakehead, Algoma, Laurentian, Nipissing,

  • Waterloo, Guelph, Toronto,

  • Queen’s, Carleton and Ottawa.

The Ontario University Championships will be Hosted by the University of Waterloo in Huntsville, ON. from February 21 to 24, 2023.


Check out these articles from USports

Rousseau captures Canada’s first gold in Lake Placid

Biathlete Shilo Rousseau wins gold again!

Lake Placid 2023: Shilo Rousseau named Canada's flag bearer for the closing ceremony

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