Subarctic temperatures. More than 85 kilometers of cross-country ski trails. Best of all, enough snow to cover the ground nearly year round. All this and more make up the capital and hometown of one of Canada’s top development skiers and current NorAm leader, Dahria Beatty, who was recently selected to Cross Country Canada’s U25 European B-Tour.
Along with Beatty, five other Canadians — Cendrine Browne, Katherine-Stewart Jones, Knute Johnsgaard, Maya MacIsaac-Jones, and Andy Shields — departed on Dec. 28 for the January OPA Cup and World Cup races in Planica, Slovenia, and Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.
While the 21-year-old Whitehorse native was excited to pack her bags earlier this week, Beatty also appreciates all the experiences that lead her to this point, including her time spent in the Yukon Territory’s capital.
“Alain Masson was my coach growing up in Whitehorse. He’s an Olympian and created an amazing ski program in the Yukon, which has fostered a lot of great athletes,” Beatty, who now lives and trains with the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) in Canmore, Alberta, said in a phone interview.
Now, Beatty is another one of the athletes joining that list.
“This season is really shaping up quite well for me. I was really happy with how I skied [in Canmore] before Christmas,” she said. “I’m hoping to keep that positive track.”
Beatty’s positive start to the 2015/2016 race season included placing third in the SuperTour skate sprint in West Yellowstone, Mont., then proceeding to win two out of three of the opening NorAm races in Canmore, Alberta, as well as the distance race at the Sovereign Lake NorAm for the second-straight year. That put her on top of the overall NorAm standings, 110 points ahead of second-ranked Andrea Dupont of Rocky Mountain Racers.
“When I graduated high school in 2012, I decided to go to move to Canmore mainly because at that time, the Alberta World Cup Academy had eleven other women on the team,” Beatty explained.
Despite Beatty’s close ties to her hometown, she had witnessed the benefits of leaving Whitehorse to train with the AWCA.
“Growing up in the Yukon, I had a great program–one of the best programs–an amazing coach, and a great training group,” said Beatty, “Still, Emily [Nishikawa] and Janelle [Greer] had moved to Canmore and I had seen how well that had gone for them, so I wanted to follow them in that path and be closer to the national team.”
Beatty’s smooth transition to skiing in Canmore with the AWCA was largely made possible by her coach Jeffries.
“Having been overtrained the first year I got to [Canmore], he and I have worked really closely and we’ve both learned a lot together,” she said.
Beatty’s close work with Jeffries will continue, as he is leading the B-Tour in Europe.
“One of the main physiological things [Jeffries] and I have worked on is having me hold a pace for longer,” Beatty said. “I’ve learned a lot about how to figure out my body.”
She said she also focused on improving her skate and double-pole technique throughout the offseason. And while ski-specific drills have been key, Beatty added that her experience in a profusion of physical activities has contributed to her skiing success.
“Doing as many sports as you can when you’re young is the best way to go,” Beatty explained. “I figure skated, did gymnastics, and danced as a kid. I also played soccer, and then as I got older, I started playing basketball and volleyball as well.
“I think having all those different sports as a kid makes you a better, well-rounded athlete,” she added. “It also made me realize how much I truly do love skiing because I had the opportunity to experience so many different sports, but was able to pick the one that was definitely my favorite.”
Her parents made the juggling of extracurriculars possible: “I was really lucky that my parents didn’t limit what I could do,” she said. “My parents were extremely supportive. They signed me up for everything I wanted to do and drove me to all my practices.”
Beatty’s father also took an active role in her love of all things nordic.
“My dad loves skiing so much … he was always the one who took me out skiing and growing up having that shared passion with my Dad was great,” Beatty said. “Even still, every time I go home he’s my best training partner.”
And while her decision to move to Canmore was mostly about finding more women to push her in training, this past year she found herself with fewer female training partners than ever.
“It definitely was a bit more challenging this year; there were less women around to train with,” she explained.
“I did a lot of my volume blocks in the summer on my own, which was just mentally challenging, mostly because you’re at that point of fatigue and don’t have anyone around you. It really taught me to toughen up and self-motivate,” she reflected.
Of course, that’s not to say Beatty trains alone 24/7.
“In the summer I train a lot with Emily Nishikawa,” she said of the Canada’s most experienced current World Cup skier, also from Whitehorse.
“Emily is a great training partner and someone who I am always looking to chase,” she added.
With her first World Cup starts of the season just around the corner, Nishikawa won’t be the only skier Beatty will try to chase down.
“My ideal goal for this season would be able to crack the top 30 on the World Cup,” Beatty said. “That’s a big goal, so if not in these ski races in January, then I’ll try again [at the Canadian World Cups] in March.”
The Ski Tour Canada begins in eastern Canada with a sprint in Gatineau, Quebec, followed by a mass start in Montréal and a back-to-back series of races in Quebec City. After a three day break, racing resumes in western Canada, with a second series of races in Canmore, followed by a distance even in Lake Louise, Alberta.
“I’m really excited about having the Tour in Canada. It’s going to be such a cool experience to have so many people there supporting you,” said Beatty of the Canadian World Cup competitions.
“My sister and grandparents will be at the eastern portion and my Mom and Dad will be down for the Canmore half,” she added.
With her family and coaches backing her along the way, Beatty’s goals for her second stage of racing go beyond just results.
“I think this period, I’d also just really like to work on becoming more comfortable and confident with the race procedure of starting a World Cup,” she said.