By PHILIP CHANDLER
Covid-19 border restrictions mean Queenstown’s highly-regarded ski programme’s taken on a new look this season.
Usually, several Queenstown Alpine Ski Team (QAST) coaches, including its top coach, are foreigners, but this year Kiwis will fill the four full-time roles and any part-time roles.
And, in an interesting twist, the new coaching director – long-time Queenstown coach and former Winter Olympian Tim Cafe – will carry out his role from his northern hemisphere base in Aspen, in the United States, because he can’t get back here.
Through a leading online video analysis platform called Sprongo, Cafe will pass on coaching tips based on videos of kids training on the hill.
The coaches include long-timer Angus Rose, who’ll again be the FIS coach, under-16 coach Hugh Phillips, U14 coach, ex-New Zealand ski racer Willis Feasey, and Queenstowner Lucy Brown who’ll take the U10s and U12s.
New QAST chair Erika Harris, an ex-Winter Olympian herself, says with a lack of international athletes and some earlier uncertainty over skiing this winter, numbers are down – “we’re sitting on abotu 50, usually we’re sitting close to 70”.
However, with uncertainty removed, she’s hopeful numbers will grow a bit.
“Considering the environment we’re in, we’re doing alright.”
Harris wants to get the message across, in QAST’s 30th anniversary year, that you don’t have to be an amazing skier to join.
“First and foremost, it’s a fun environment for kids.”
It’s also a great way to pick up life skills, she says.
A special thrill for athletes this season will be training on Coronet Peak alongside world-leading local ski racer Alice Robinson, 18, who went through QAST herself.
“It’s amazing for our current athletes to have somebody like that to look up to,” Harris says.
She’s also delighted former chair Damien O’Connell’s staying on the committee.
And, importantly, he’s taking on the programme director’s role as well.
“It takes a lot of that admin side of things away from the head coach.”