Maybe it was the transition to full-time racing or the fact that Zoe Roy was competing in her home nation last season. It could’ve been the back-and-fourth flights across the U.S/Canadian border, or one team’s hospitality that helped Roy reach new heights on the NorAm circuit.
Whatever it was, she wasn’t fighting it. After spending some 20 years in Bend, Ore., Roy, who turned 25 on Sunday, is moving to Canmore, Alberta. Starting Aug. 1, she plans to live and train at Canada’s cross-country epicenter with Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR), which took her in last year. Traveling with the club and taking advantage of its wax resources, Roy achieved her first NorAm podiums with second- and third-place in 10 k races, and tied her personal best at Canadian nationals in seventh.
Between races, Roy was studying at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. In her fifth year there, she was done with collegiate racing and entering the pro scene as a founding member of StellaRacing – a Salt Lake-based women’s squad in its inaugural year. She was also in her first season with XC Oregon, making her club affiliation that much more confusing.
In committing to a domestic circuit, she chose Canada because she’s from there. Born in Ontario, Roy remains a Canadian citizen and doesn’t have dual ties despite growing up in Bend. She started last year with the West Yellowstone SuperTour, then spent the rest of her season in Canada (except for a convergence trip to Europe and local races in Salt Lake).
FasterSkier chatted with Roy on the phone last week shortly after her surfing vacation in El Salvador. Earlier this month, she and a childhood friend from Oregon flocked to the sea to learn the sport in a place they could do it every day. After fulfilling their goals and surfing under moonlit skies, Roy was back in ski mode in Bend.
FasterSkier: After more than a week of mostly surfing, are you a pro now?
Zoe Roy: Not a pro by any stretch, but I’m better than really bad. Took lessons the first few days to get the hang of it.
FS: What was the best part of your trip?
ZR: I’d say the highlight … was going surfing at night under the full moon. That and the fried plantains.
FS: Before El Salvador, you worked at the Fire and Ice Camp in Bend. How was that?
ZR: The day before we left, I was on snow. It was kind of funny going from that to surfing. … I coached for TUNA [The Utah Nordic Alliance] the week before [the Fire and Ice Camp] and then I did Fire and Ice for a couple days before I left. I was kind of an assistant coach for [that].
There were a ton of juniors there. It was pretty cool to be able to get all those kids together. At any age, it’s fun to see everyone else skiing, too. You see all your friends that you might not get to see the rest of the year.
FS: How long had you been back in Bend?
ZR: I came [back] after school at the beginning of June and I’m going up to Canmore in the beginning of August. … I actually graduated in May [with a degree in] exercise and sport science with a minor in entrepreneurial business and a TESOL certificate, which means I can teach English as a second language.
FS: Why did you decide to move to Canmore?
ZR: I had a good year last year and I got to travel with the Canadians a bit. I’m originally Canadian … so I thought I might as well move up there and spend the year skiing with them and see how it goes. That’s the main reason. I also have an aunt and uncle in Calgary so that’s nice, too. I’m on the team RMR, which I traveled with on the Canadian circuit last year. It’s based out of Canmore, so that seemed the natural place to go.
FS: How did your relationship with RMR start, and what about the team appeals to you?
ZR: They waxed for me at nationals two years ago so maybe that was the beginning of it, and then after that I got more connected with them.
It’s a fun team. They have the whole spectrum from juniors up to elite racers. Dasha [Gaiazova] is part of it and Andrea Dupont, those are probably the two main older girls on that team, and then John Jaques, the coach, is awesome, too. It’s probably a combination of who’s there and then John, too. I don’t know [new assistant coach] Mike Vierra too well, but he’s the new coach there, but I’ve heard great things about him, too.
I’m psyched to be [moving] up there. I feel like there’s a pretty solid group of, not just on that team, but the whole Canmore community. The [Alberta] World Cup Academy’s there so I’m excited to have that whole group of girls to train with. … That’s another big reason. I feel like it doesn’t get much better than that.
FS: When it comes to climbing the elite ranks of racing, why did you pick the Canadian route?
ZR: I think mostly because opportunities do exist for me to race in Canada. Those same opportunities don’t exist for me to race for the U.S. because I’m not a U.S. citizen, so I guess that’s the main reason. I thought, ‘If I’m going to see how fast I can race, I might as well go somewhere where there are opportunities to make teams’ … so I thought I’d go to Canada.
FS: We heard you were leaving XC Oregon, but what’s the status of StellaRacing?
ZR: As of this coming year we’re splitting up a few more different ways because it was really based out of Salt Lake. I’m heading up to Canada, Katie [Ronsse] is in PT school, Evelyn [Dong] is coming back to Bend.
It was great; we had an awesome time putting it together and have a team based in Salt Lake to work from and race with, but I’d say as of now, it’s splitting up a bit more. I’m sure some of us will still wear our suits at certain times, but I don’t know if it will be as much as a team as it was last year, but we had a great time doing it.
FS: What are your goals for this coming season?
ZR: Well, the World Cups are in Canada so if I qualified for that, that would be amazing, but who knows. If that could happen, that would be awesome, but other than that podiums at NorAms and another Scando Cup would be sweet, too. I don’t know exactly what the opportunities are for another Scando trip.
FS: What did you gain from the convergence trip?
ZR: It was cool to just race in Europe and see the other parts of the ski world. It’s good to race against those girls and see what level they’re at. I feel like just that in itself was a good experience.
[Note: After winning four state championships at Summit High School, Roy spent a year and a half in Austria training and racing at the University of Salzburg.]
FS: How did you feel last season went overall?
ZR: I was psyched about those [NorAm] results. What can I attribute it to? I don’t know exactly, but I mean, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing. I guess before that I was racing [collegiately] so I couldn’t come to Canada that much. I was on the NCAA circuit.
FS: What are your thoughts on truly making the next step to full-time racing?
ZR: It’s exciting. It’ll be interesting to sort of concentrate more on skiing than I really did before.
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.