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Writer’s Block Solutions sat down with Linda Schulze, president of Red Mountain Racers, to get the inside scoop on the organization’s resurrected Winter Gala set for this Saturday, March 30th. Ultimately, it was an opportunity to learn about the program that is so near and dear to the members of the Rossland community, and about the enormous effort put forth by a group of hardworking volunteers, dedicated to keeping prices down so ski racing is accessible for all families with a passion for alpine skiing.

Linda, how long have you been involved with Red Mountain Racers?

My daughter is 17, and she started with Red Mountain Racers – with Nancy Greene – I think when she was 6, so she’s been doing it for 11 years.

And you’ve held a volunteer position that whole time?

Pretty much; my very good friend Christine Andison has been with the club for a long time – her daughter grew up in the club and has now moved onto university in the UK – and she got me involved pretty early on. I think my daughter Hanna was maybe 8 or 9 when I joined the board, and I progressively took on more responsibility and more involvement up until now. I’m currently in my second year of presidency.

What keeps you involved?

Well, I have two kids in ski racing, and it’s very dependent on volunteer fundraising. We run events, like the big BC Cup FIS Technical Race Series we hosted this past weekend; we also do a ski swap in October, and it’s these things that help keep our program fees low so our club is accessible to all.

Can you tell me more about Red Mountain Racers?

Red Mountain Racers is a learn-to-race club. Lessons are really good for learning the rudimentary things, and a natural progression from learning to ski is learning to race; you don’t have to be a racer to want to benefit from learning to race. Racing provides a good foundation for anything you want to do on a ski hill – and you probably already know this, but lots of the best freeskiers in the world come from a racing background. I mean, look at Dane Tudor, Mike Hopkins, Leah Evans – they all started in ski racing.

Obviously the kids involved in this program learn some incredible skills that make them great racers and skiers. Are there other benefits?

They have so much fun! I mean the cool thing is we see young kids enter the program who are intimidated by the gates. They’re adamant at the beginning of the season: ‘No, we’re not racing – we just want to be better skiers.’ And then we get them to one of those Nancy Greene (youngster) races, and they have so much fun. The camaraderie and the adrenaline they experience standing in the start gate and watching other kids go is just electric; it really is. I mean, it might be scary in the beginning but some kids get really engaged, and they find a love that they weren’t expecting.

What are the age requirements for Red Mountain Racers?

The youngest age group that we have events for is U6, so that’s four-and-five-year-olds and then it goes all the way up to FIS (Federation International du Ski). The oldest athletes we have in the club right now are 17 and 18 years old.

Do these programs act as a channel to send young athletes on to professional skiing opportunities?

Totally! I mean FIS is the international organization that oversees ski racing globally; they represent the alpine side at the Olympics, the World Cup, and the World Championships, so it absolutely is a conduit to international competition.

Are there any current or former Red Mountain Racers making a name for themselves?

Yes. Kerrin Lee-Gartner comes from Red; so do Sean Valentine and Don Stevens – they all competed at the international level. Kerrin won the downhill Olympic gold medal in 1992 in France, and they were all on the Canadian National Team and raced at the Nor-Am Cup as well as in Europe. Not to mention Nancy Greene Raine, who is now a member of the Canadian Senate and a major presence at Sun Peaks. Recently, we’ve had athletes on the BC Ski Team, like Soleil Patterson; she’s a Red Mountain Racer who is currently on scholarship up at the University of Alaska. We have Sammie Gaul, who races with GMVS, a school out on the east coast, on the US circuit. We also have two athletes on the Kootenay Zone Team for FIS – Heiko Ihns and Luke Hoefer. That’s all I can come up with off the top of my head.

That’s plenty! And so I understand that the Red Mountain Racer Winter Gala is being resurrected, correct?

Yes, we haven’t run the gala for a few years now. It’s quite a commitment; it’s a lot of work and we just didn’t have the capacity to continue doing it, so it kind of fell by the wayside. But now we have Tamara, who has this amazing energy and skill at organizing something like this. You know, we all thought it was too short notice, that we weren’t going to be able to pull it off, but we left our executive meeting and the next thing we know – a week later – Tamara’s got a poster, she’s got sponsors, she’s got prizes, she’s got a venue, she’s got tickets. I mean, she’s a spitfire! It’s going to be such a fun event, and it’s absolutely appropriate for Red Mountain Racers to be holding this kind of thing. I really hope we can make it an annual event, because we’re always in our snow gear shredding the mountain, or off on races, or working the ski swap, and this is an opportunity to not only host a fundraiser but also to get dressed up and drink cocktails; we get to take a break from always wearing goggles and a helmet.

Agreed! It’s a fun event and something that Kootenay folks don’t do too often.  It sounds like people are excited, and you have some great sponsorship happening – that speaks volumes for how much the community cares about this program.

Yes, I mean, we are so lucky – and the BC Cup FIS Technical Race Series is a prime example of the community coming together to help out. I mean, we had volunteers who haven’t had any racers in the program for years, or never had racers in the program at all, and they’re still very supportive of us as a club. They realize after that first time that they just have so much fun doing it, so they keep coming, year-after-year, to help us with ski races. And keep in mind, these positions they volunteer for aren’t comfortable; they’re standing on the side of a ski hill on a powder day watching athletes push snow off the mountain, but they do it because they like it, and they know how important Red Mountain Racers is to Rossland, and the ski hill, and our community. And by that I mean our greater community – we have athletes from Castlegar and Trail and Warfield, too, which is just so awesome.

What is the ultimate goal of the gala event?

The goal is to raise our profile outside of just being on the race slope. This is a really awesome opportunity for us to get together outside of work and enjoy an evening of drinks and appetizers and conversations with people, without being in a rush to get somewhere – or without having cold toes or having to move kids from one place to another. It’s an opportunity to take a breath, have fun, and meet people. And of course it’s open to everyone, not just Red Mountain Racers? parents. This is a community event and a chance to put on your favorite tuxedo – whether it’s a Salmo dinner jacket or an Armani suit.

Is there anything else you’d like to add, Linda?

I also think this is an awesome opportunity to see The Josie Hotel! I mean, I don’t know if you’ve been up there, but it’s such a cool place to have a fancy-dress evening – because this is 007, right?

Do you expect the event to sell out?

Yes, we do expect the event to sell out. We have DJ Inncouragable, who’s played some really awesome events, so I’m sure he’s going to keep the crowd entertained. And the ski hill is still open so it’s a perfect opportunity to wear your tuxedo on your last few runs and then head on over to the party.

I think we may see some people in a mix of ski and formal wear, as the poster created by Juicy Studios suggests.

I hope so, wouldn’t that be fun!? But obviously no guns; we’ll replace those with martinis – shaken, not stirred of course. I think between now and then we all need to sit down and re-watch some James Bond movies so that we – in our sparkly attire – can drop some classic James Bond lines during the evening.

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