CANMORE – Inspiration for Britt Richardson is everywhere during her first training camp with the Canadian Alpine Ski Team.
At 18 years old, the Canmore alpine skier went from a must-watch prospect to being named the youngest athlete to the national team for the 2021-22 season.
“I think that it’s definitely the best thing for me right now,” said Richardson, who is an emerging threat at giant slalom (GS). “It’s super cool; all these girls are racing world cup and just being able to ski with them on the hill and workout with them and be around them and watch their video has been helpful for me.”
Skiing on a glacier in Italy this June for a two-and-a-half-week camp, Richardson is receiving invaluable insight by watching and listening to how the Canadian women prepare, train and recover in the build up to the world cup and Winter Olympic Games this upcoming season.
“Their whole day seems to be based on skiing and what would be best for them and preparing for the next day and the rest of the camp, so that’s been really good,” Richardson said. “I’ve been able to follow them and learn, I guess, how is the best way to do it.”
Along with Richardson, there are two other new members on the national ski team in Banff's Liam Wallace and Cassidy Gray of Panorama, British Columbia.
Speculation is growing that Richardson will see her first world cup action this season, but the Burke Mountain Academy graduate will mostly compete on the NorAm and Alpine Skiing Europa cup circuits, growing her skills and speed.
However, in the latest FIS rankings, it shows Richardson isn't far from the sports top racing circuit as she remains the queen of Canada in her age group.
She’s ranked first in slalom, GS, and super-G among 18 year olds – a title she's held over the past few seasons.
Internationally, she’s the top 18-year-old female in GS, and ranked seventh in slalom and super-G, respectfully.
“For now, I’m not going to specialize in anything,” said Richardson. “I’m still pretty young, so I’m going to continue doing slalom, GS and super-G … My best is GS for now, but things could change in two years and I could be better at slalom.”
Over the past few seasons, Richardson has been studying and training at Burke, a top-ranked alpine ski racing school in Vermont, which has produced graduates such as Olympic gold medallist Mikaela Shiffrin.
She's decided to take a year off from going to university in order to train and compete.
In overall international rankings, she's among the world’s best and Richardson's steady rise south of the border has moved her to just outside the top 100 in GS – quite the impressive feat for the emerging teen, said Patrick Gillespie, president of Alberta Alpine.
“It's an awesome accomplishment," said Gillespie.
“With Britt, she’s shown an incredible resilience to get where she is as all of these athletes have ... even through COVID, 15 months of COVID did not stop these athletes from pursuing their dream and getting on that national team. It just shows tons of resilience and character."
Gillespie described Richardson as having the core talent to be world-class and is mentally strong at her age.
"I think it takes a lot to rattle her," he said.
On top of competing in NorAms and Europa cups, Richardson qualified for the world junior ski championships in Panorama, B.C. from March 5-12, 2022 – the first time it’ll be held in western Canada.
Gillespie said he expects to see Richardson on the podium at the event.
“This is a great stepping stone for all of those athletes to make their way onto the world cup,” he said.
Should Richardson get a world cup start this season, it likely won’t be at home in Lake Louise this December during the alpine speed events, but rather in a technical GS race over in Europe.
“I’m not sure which one, whatever makes sense timing-wise with the other Europa Cups and NorAms,” said Richardson. “We’ll see how the season goes.”
The first NorAm Cup of the season is at Lake Louise, after the world cup wraps up, and Richardson is expected to be on the starting line down the road from where she grew up.