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Cross country skiing, biathlon to be on dryland for BC Winter Games

The competition atmosphere at the BC Winter Games will look different this year as a lack of snow has cancelled or changed how competitions will look.

According to the winter games, the competition in Quesnel will be missing BC Alpine Ski, Freestyle BC and BC Snowboard because of the conditions. Sports like cross-country skiing and biathlon, however, will still run on dry land.

The Vancouver Island Biathlon Club has six athletes heading to the games this year. Volunteer coach with the Strathcona Nordic Ski Club Armel Castellan adds they are sending a few athletes as well.

The BC River Forecast Centre says as of Feb. 1, the Island only has about 30 per cent of its normal snowpack. Castellan says this season has presented its training challenges as the lack of snow is plaguing Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, but it isn’t all bad for the cross-country side.

“We’ve had poor seasons in the past, but this one certainly ranks way up there. The ski development program has been doing a lot of dryland training,” said Castellan.

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“Some indications are showing that’s actually can be beneficial for the power transfer into double pole technique and actually has shown really good results.”

Vancouver Island Biathlon Club program director and vice-president Jonathan Kerr adds they feel fortunate to be able to compete with all the challenges presented this year.

“I heard the news about the three sports that had to cancel and withdraw from the games,” said Kerr. “I’m just really thankful that Biathlon BC and the BC Winter Games Society, they agreed to get creative and provide some meaningful competition for our athletes.

“Running and shooting is better than no competitions at all.”

However, Kerr adds this could bring a different dynamic as other skiers who are more technically sound and hang with the bigger competitors.

“It will be interesting to see how that translates when it’s running because presumably, the bigger, stronger kids might have a bit of an advantage over the more technically sound skiers,” said Kerr. “It will be a bit of a mystery on who ends up on the top of the podium in Quesnel.”

When it comes to the next generations, both Castellan and Kerr point to climate change and how it could affect the next generations, and some adaptations will be needed.

“There have been some really interesting adaptations to bury a lot of snow at the end of winter and keep it in a north-facing side of the mountain with wood chips and straw on top and pull it out in the middle of October of the following season,” said Castellan.

Kerr adds it influences how many people they can recruit and hopes the day that Mount Washington needs to close is many years in the future. Despite this, he says athletes still seem excited to be going this season.

“I’ve told our athletes that are a little disappointed that there won’t be skiing, I told them that there is so much more to the BC Winter Games than just the competition,” said Kerr. “Having gone last year, I got to see that the games are really a great experience for everyone.”

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