For skiing Klotz family, weekend race a lift for 'home' hill

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Former winter Olympians recall time in spotlight

You might look at this week's snow accumulation and sigh. But the Klotz family has been cheering.

"I know we're not like everybody else. We really like the snow," Julie Klotz told All in a Day host Alan Neal.

Klotz is a former Olympian and World Cup ski racer. Her daughter, 16-year-old Sierra Smith, races on the Quebec ski team.

This weekend, the family will be celebrating at their home away from home: Mont Ste-Marie, just 45 minutes north of Wakefield.

That's where 140 world-class alpine racers from across North America and Europe will be hitting the slopes for the Nor-Am Cup Finals.

Growing up on the mountain

Klotz is among the army of volunteers involved in bringing the major international competition to Mont Ste-Marie, where she first fell in love with skiing.

"You're one with the mountain when you get up on the hill," Klotz said. "You get off the chair, you're in fresh air, you're at the top. You feel like you own the world when you're up there."

Klotz has a special family connection to the Mont Ste-Marie ski club. It was first created 50 years ago by her father, Trevor Klotz, who raced on the Canadian ski team in 1957.

"We're three generations, all the time, every weekend on the mountain," she said. "You don't get that in many different sports."

Beyond her own family, Klotz said there is an "unbelievable" downhill ski community in the Ottawa region.

"We have strong athletes that are coming up. We have great hills, and Mont Ste-Marie: the giant slalom hill — the Dustin Cook run — is an unbelievable run that we wanted the international ski world to have a chance to see."

Local hero lends name to new run

Mont Ste-Marie's latest run didn't even exist until two years ago, when a group of volunteers set out to attract a major international competition.

"Everybody got involved. Every club in the region donated money to it," Klotz said. "We kept saying, 'If we build it, they will come.'"

Sure enough, they did. Through a GoFundMe campaign, the group raised $190,000 to widen and raise the former Outaouais run to meet the required race standards.

The run was later renamed in honour of Mont Ste-Marie ski champion Dustin Cook.

Since he got his start racing at the club, the 28-year-old World Cup skier has earned 24 Nor-Am Cup podium finishes.

"He's a local hero, and he's certainly a club hero," Klotz said of Cook. "When he's around, he's back at the club. He's skiing with the young athletes. He's definitely an ambassador to us."

And he's been carving tracks for younger Mont Ste-Marie skiers — like Sierra Smith.

"I was able to see him grow up, I guess, on to the national team and winning world cups, and it's been really inspirational," she said. "I hope I can follow the same path."

Inspiring a new generation of skiers

Though the sixteen-year-old only started competing two years ago, she already has five wins this year alone.

Besides racing for the Quebec ski team, the Canadian U16 Topolino team, and the Whistler Cup National Team, Smith is also competing in the U19 category.

But far from being intimidated by racing against older athletes, Smith said she thrives on the competition.

"It's my first year on the big circuit of ski racing and just being able to see the calibre of what I can live up to. It's really exciting to see, and I can't wait to get there," she said.

The Nor-Am Cup Finals start Friday with two days of giant slalom races, followed by two days of slalom.

The rest of the ski hill will be open to the public throughout the event.