The idea struck Esther Bottomley in early October. If she wanted to break into the top 30 on the World Cup this season, why not start practicing at one of the venues she’ll compete at?
The 29-year-old Australian National Ski Team member called up Perianne Jones, who was training with the Canadian national team in Park City, Utah. Jones spoke to her friend Amanda Ammar, who races for the Canmore Nordic Ski Club in Alberta and had an extra room back home. A couple weeks later, Bottomley was on snow training in Canmore, living at altitude and soaking up her surroundings.
A month into her visit, Bottomley, who’s been on the Australian national team for the better part of a decade, talked to FasterSkier about what she’s been up to in Canmore and why she decided to train there in the first place. One of two women on her team and the only one competing in Canada this season, Bottomley opted to skip the early World Cup races in Europe to prepare for the Québec and Canmore sprints Dec. 8 and 15, respectively.
FasterSkier: Why Canmore?
Esther Bottomley: They’ve got the World Cups over in Canada so that’s sort of why I was going to come here, but mostly it was to try and get a big group of girls that are at a really high level and be able to train with them. So far I’ve trained with three different training groups [the Canadian NST, Alberta World Cup Academy and Rocky Mountain Racers], and it’s been great, like, really good skiers and very motivated.
FS: How have you made it work with your training plan?
EB: I have my own plan and when I can get information from other teams in advance it’s really good, which they’ve sometimes been able to do. My coach can accommodate some of their intensity sessions so I’ve been trying to do as many sessions as I can with other people but also stick to some of my own things as well.
FS: How much time had you previously spent in Canada?
EB: I’ve been for the World Cups before and a wedding [teammate Chris Darlington married former Canadian skier Brooke Gosling last winter], but I’ve never spent more than like a week here. It’s the first time I’ve been able to do a bit more exploring, which has been fun.
(Note: Bottomley achieved her career-best World Cup result of 35th in a 2005 freestyle sprint in Vernon, British Columbia.)
FS: What are your goals for this season?
EB: This year, I guess the goal is to try to get into the top 30 in the sprints, focus on the sprints, and try and sort of cut back travel. I’d like to try and stay in one spot for a while, which has been really good here. I can train here the whole time then go to Quebec and back again. I’ll be in Europe for the rest of the season until March.
FS: Why the change in travel?
EB: I’d kind of like to be able to, if I can, sit in one spot for a little while and just cut back the amount of hours. I didn’t go to the early World Cups in Europe just so I could cut down the jet-lag time and the hours because we already have to do that big flight from Australia to get anywhere.
FS: How has your training been?
EB: Pretty good. … We did a sprint simulation on the World Cup track so that’s fantastic. You get to come here and they’ve opened up the sprint course like the last weekend so we can now get on it and see what we have to do to ski faster on it. I think that’s the really big advantage to be able to come somewhere and just be able to ski the course and know the course before you race it.
FS: What’s the sprint course in Canmore like?
EB: Canmore is a bit of a hill climb. It’ll be a hundred percent different I think than Québec, which is meant to be a long flat course to here, which is really just a big climb in the middle and flat into it and flat out of it and that’s it. It’s a tough course.
FS: What do you know about the Québec course?
EB: It’ll be interesting. I think it’s quite a long course for the women so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. The NorAms will give us an idea of how things are going and then right straight into it.
(In a follow-up after Bottomley placed ninth in the Canmore NorAm freestyle sprint and 17th in the 10 k classic Dec. 1-2):
FS: How did the Canmore NorAm go?
EB: Last weekend was good fun but didn’t quite go as well as I was hoping for the races. Looking forward to going to Québec and racing on Saturday to see if I can ski a bit faster there.
FS: What kind of sprint course do you prefer?
EB: I kind of like in between [hilly and flat], sort of just an undulating where you can climb hard and recover a bit in between, but we’ll see. I’ve been training I think well during [the offseason]. It’s always hard to know at the start of the season. Hopefully I’m a little bit fitter and hills are all right.
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) 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.