Cross-country skier Natalie Wilkie is training for future success in the sport alongside both the BC Nordic Team and the Para-Nordic national prospect team.
Sixteen-year-old Wilkie was selected for the BC Nordic Team following her bronze-medal performance at Cross-Country Ski nationals this spring. Her skill on the trails coupled with the loss of most of the fingers on her left hand in an accident in the Jackson Campus wood shop in 2016 got Wilkie noticed by the Para-Prospect team.
Over a month before the first cross-country races start, Wilkie is already in the midst of a demanding training schedule to get her prepared.
She is one of 55 young athletes selected by Petro-Canada to receive a $10,000 grant to support their training.
Wilkie has already participated in several training camps alongside the rest of team BC. One of the camps was held on the Haig Glacier south of Canmore, allowing the team to ski in the summer, but only after a demanding hike.
Wilkie said skiing at the high altitudes was difficult so the camp focused mostly on technique.
“It took a couple of days to adapt. It didn’t seem too hard, but people could get sick if they skied too hard,” she said.
Wilkie has been skiing since she was young as her family live only five minutes away from the Larch Hills ski area.
For the last nine years, she has been coached by Abbi May, head coach of the Larch Hills Junior Race team.
May says Wilkie’s training does not diverge too much from the other Larch Hills skiers, but she can work with the BC Nordic Team coaches and get feedback on the training schedule.
Before the season of races begins, Wilkie will attend one more camp at Whistler with Team BC and then another in Canmore with the older group from the Larch Hills race team.
The para-nordic team coaches will also be in Canmore to help Wilkie work on the one-pole technique she will have to employ while competing in Para-skiing competitions.
“It really changes how you balance, skiing with one pole,” Wilkie said.
May said Canada’s para-nordic team has good coaches who will help Wilkie succeed.
Wilkie skis with two poles when competing with the BC Nordic Team and the Larch Hills team.
The ski season begins for Wilkie with the Para-Nordic World Cup, which will be held in Canmore in early December. Along with being her first race of the season, it is her first-ever international event.
“That’s why we need to get on snow early. December is coming fast,” May said.