LAKE LOUISE – It was the kind of season opener that Jeff Read wanted: two races of slamming his foot on the pedal to see if his rigorous off-season training was worth anything.
The 25-year-old speed skier from Canmore came into the Lake Louise world cup highly motivated after coming to the realization that his skiing wasn’t at the level it needed to be.
And for the first time, Read obtained something he hadn’t before: being on the right side of the top 30 at Lake Louise, twice – even after suffering a big crash in training.
Now the Banff Alpine Racer alum is building on the momentum of an impressive start when physical and mental toughness was tested.
“It feels good to be on the right side of that and be consistent enough to push and get that high-level,” said Read. “I’m definitely looking for the next gear to push deeper in the 30s.”
Read finished 27th in the men’s downhill and 21st in super-G on Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 26-27) at Lake Louise Ski Resort. He earned much-needed world cup points, which help improve starting spots, and throws a little extra prize moment in his pocket.
“In both races, I was less than a couple tenths [of a second] from outside the 30 to in the 30, so that felt really good because that’s what I was dealing with a lot last year,” he said.
A season ago, Read was trying to qualify for Canada’s Olympic team. He, along with a very talented men’s speed team were making noise on the international scene, and tested each other's speed on the icy slopes of the world cup circuit.
However, Read was named an alternate and didn’t get a shot in Beijing. During the games, teammate Jack Crawford won bronze in the alpine combined.
That off-season, the son of a Crazy Canuck Ken Read focused on the technical aspects of his game. His fitness improved as well, and conditioning himself to be able to push harder and faster even in tougher terrains. Read pushed the limit during the first training run in Lake Louise.
“I was ripping, for sure, I was fourth at the last interval before I crashed,” said Read.
The snow was softer that day as Read flew into Coach’s Corner a “little low and late”. Coming off a jump into a narrower area, one of Read’s skis popped off his boot and he hit the ground, tumbling into the netting forcibly and bouncing off it. But the harsh-looking crash wasn't as bad as it looked for the tough Canuck.
“Fortunately, I hit it in a way that nothing major happened. I just got a scrape on the chin and sore neck,” Read said.
“I’ve run the track so many times and that section I’ve never had issue with. I was, for sure, nervous on that downhill day on Saturday.”
With a black bandage covering his cut-up chin, Read drove through the section of his big crash with a bit of nerves, but flawlessly en route to a Lake Louise personal best.
The following day in super-G, Read let the momentum ride and topped his overall best result at The Lake.
“It took some mental resiliency because any big crash like that, every ski racer has one or two, it can definitely shake you for a while, but I was really happy to hop back on the horse right away,” he said.
Starting Friday (Dec. 2), the men’s speed world cup resumes in Beaver Creek, Colorado.
In his pursuit in becoming a threat on the world cup stage, Read pointed out the spot his teammate Crawford was a season ago. The bronze medallist was in the fight for top 30s, and slowly but surely, gained world cup points and consistently climbed up the world cup ladder.
“He started getting those big results, punching in top 10s, top 5s … I’m definitely looking to follow in those footsteps,” said Read. “It will be a long road to get there, but I see the pathway, and it’s something that’s doable."