With the 2016/2017 season officially in the rearview, FasterSkier is excited to unveil its annual award winners for this past winter. Votes stem from the FS staff, scattered across the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and while not scientific, they are intended to reflect a broader sense of the season in review. This set of honors goes to outstanding Canadian skiers competing primarily, but not exclusively, at the Continental Cup level.
Katherine Stewart-Jones, U25 National team/NTDC Thunder Bay/Nakkertok
In a year of changes for the Canadian women’s program, Katherine Stewart-Jones quietly delivered a great season. She was only ranked sixth in the NorAm series before Nationals, which wouldn’t usually be a sign of a great season – but by the end of the week, she had won the whole series.
This year, two of the five NorAm weekends (Sovereign Lake and Soldier Hollow) were combined with the U.S. circuit and had much deeper fields as a result. American Chelsea Holmes (Alaska Pacific University) took a commanding early-season NorAm lead by winning the BlackJack mini-tour along with six podiums in eight races.
Even after Holmes stopped coming to NorAms, Stewart-Jones didn’t have a clear path to the top. She missed Eastern Canadian Championships, her home event, to compete at U23 World Championships in Soldier Hollow. That was a big blow because as one of two mini-tours on the schedule, there were 400 points available compared to the usual 200 on a weekend.
But after a disappointing week at U23’s, the event that had been her main goal for the season, Stewart-Jones’s trajectory took turn towards Europe, and ultimately towards better results.
“Definitely racing in Lahti,” she wrote of her season highlight, racing at senior World Championships in Lahti, Finland. “There it’s a tie between the 10 k classic and the relay at World Champs — I felt the best I had all year.”
The 36th place in the Lahti 10 k was her best finish at the World Cup level. And the relay was significant for the women’s program, not just because Canada had four women present, but because the 10th-place result is a big step forward for the resurgent women’s program.
“The relay was a magical day, it was a real team effort and the result was the best women’s relay result in the last 10 years,” Stewart-Jones wrote.
After World Cup Finals in Quebec, where Stewart-Jones said she “wasn’t expecting to feel that good” thanks to illness picked up in Europe, she flew to Nationals in Canmore. There, Stewart-Jones bagged the Continental Cup lead with third in the 10 k classic and third in the free technique sprint, bringing her to five races in six days. After two full days without a race, she ground out a seventh-place finish in the 30 k free.
“I think the altitude training [last summer in NZ and Park City] really paid off,” she said of her ability to clinch the NorAm title at the last moment. “This summer I’m hoping to focus even more on my strength weaknesses. I want to also focus more on my skate skiing.”
Evan Palmer-Charrette, NTDC Thunder Bay/Lappe Nordic
In a year of Canadian highlights in Europe, the next group of Canadian men were battling for opportunities to make their own highlights.
Palmer-Charrette started the season on the bottom, eliminated in the sprint semi-final at the first NorAm race of the season when two racers fell on him in a spectacular crash.
But by the end of the season he was on top, winning the national title in the classic sprint (where he finished third behind two European racers from the University of Denver).
“I finally went for [compartment syndrome surgery] this summer and trained really hard after that, like really motivated to get back,” he told FasterSkier after winning his first National title in the sprint. “It’s awesome to be Canadian champion. Surprise for sure, in a classic sprint for me.”
Palmer-Charrette, who missed Eastern Canadian Championships to compete at U23 World Championships in Soldier Hollow, ended the season second overall in the NorAm series. He had collected two wins and two podiums over nine race days before Nationals. He also finished sixth in the sprint at U.S. Nationals.
After U23’s and a SuperTour stop in Michigan, he went on to the World Cup Finals for his first World Cup experience, after missing his first opportunity due to conflicts with U23’s.
“It was tough,” he told FasterSkier after the sprint qualifier. “I had pretty good focus and the first two-third’s went well but after the big climb in the middle, my legs were super acidic and lactated out more than they usually do so made for a tough last third but it was fun though.”
Obviously feeling on form, Palmer-Charrette went straight from Nationals to the final SuperTour to collect another podium, this time second place in the SuperTour Finals sprint, and put an exclamation point on a great season.
Honourable Mention: Russell Kennedy, Team R.A.D., Canmore
It says something about the state of skiing in Canada that a NorAm overall winner and Holmenkollen 50 k finisher didn’t win the award.
Kennedy had a breakthrough season, winning the NorAm title for the first time and adding five more World Cup starts to his resume. He won the pursuit at Eastern Canadian Championships to take the mini-tour and get an untouchable lead in the series.