Windermere’s Courtney Hoffos is raking in the medals in her first World Cup heats this year.
Last weekend in Montafon, Austria, the ski cross competitor raced to a bronze medal finish, a week after earning both a silver and a bronze over two days of races in Val Thorens, France.
Courtney was able to speak by video chat with the Pioneer a few days after her double-medal win in Val Thorens.
“It was pretty amazing. I was definitely not expecting it,” she said. “It was such a fun feeling, racing with some of the best that I always look up to. Being right in there was pretty unreal.”
Not only did she make the podium two times in two days at Val Thorens, it was also Courtney’s first-ever official World Cup heats, setting the bar high for the local athlete. She has raced in the Canadian World Cup the last two years, but did not qualify for the heats. Last season, she raced in the Nor-Am, European, and Australian New Zealand Cup tours. This year her goal was to race in the Cross Alps tour, and hoped she would be invited to participate for Canada in some World Cup races.
The 22-year-old chalks up the early season success to a lot of hard work. Last summer, she opted to stay at her training base and continue working on and off the slopes on her skills and strength. She and her teammates skied 11 of the 12 months this year.
“It was a good summer for getting stronger, and kind of proving myself to be able to race the World Cup circuit this year,” she said.
For Courtney, the weekend wins do not change her perspective on how to face the 2019/2020 season.
“I’m still going into every race with not a lot of expectations, taking one heat at a time,” she said.
Courtney said she is grateful for the support back home in the Columbia Valley, from her parents who have always cheered her on, to the whole community standing behind her. She grew up in the Columbia Valley, skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort and racing with the Windermere Valley Ski Club as a kid. Helmut Spiegl was Courtney’s coach in the Windermere Valley Ski Club for four or five years before she moved into the ski cross discipline. To become a great ski cross skier, explained Mr. Spiegl, “You have to be technically a very strong skier to carve turns. You have to be able to glide fast … and you have to be super comfortable in the air.”
This type of racing also demands being comfortable racing shoulder-to-shoulder with other competitors, Mr. Spiegl noted.
Courtney is “very strong in all these elements,” he remarked. “She’s very athletic, and very diligent in her training routines.”
Describing ski cross, Courtney said, “It’s basically a huge adrenaline rush … You’re pulling out of the gate with three other girls right next to you, and you have to focus on the features in front of you. It adds a direct element of competition from right out the gate.”
Her favourite parts of ski cross are the big jumps, and the banked turns, she shared.
“I love the big tracks and the more open courses where you can actually ski.”
Aside from her technical skills, Mr. Spiegl said she Courtney has a very bright personality, and a positive attitude all the time. He cited a “horrific injury” Courtney suffered just over two years ago, and how she worked her way back to podium-performance.
“It was phenomenal to see her success,” he said. “It was great to see all that hard work pay off.”
Her mom Jenny Hoffos agrees with the coach, noting she has seen her daughter work very hard to get to this point in her career. Courtney broke her leg a few years ago, lost a whole year of skiing on recovery, then spent last season focused on racing again.
“She has been training really hard this summer,” said Jenny. “She’s motivated, and she’s feeling better health-wise.”
Courtney’s parents were up at 3 a.m. to watch the Van Thorens races, hearing the race commentary in Swedish as it was the only live feed they could find. Speaking briefly to their daughter by phone afterwards, Jenny said, “She was just so excited, she could hardly even talk.”
Courtney will be home for a couple days around Christmas before heading back out with the Canadian team in 2020. To follow her races, see www.fis-ski.com and search for her name under athletes.
Want to be the next great Canadian skier? Alongside Courtney Hoffos, Olympian Ben Thomsen also trained with the Windermere Valley Ski Club, as well as Amelia Smart, and others who have gone on to provincial, national, and international success. Mr. Spiegl says the doors are always open to new skiers joining up. To learn more about the Windermere Valley Ski Club, visit www.windermerevalleyskiclub.com.