Several mornings a year carloads, or busloads these days, crammed with kids and coaches from Oak Bay make the wee morning trip to Mount Washington.
Across the decade of the Oak Bay High ski and snowboard team, a theme resonates among members. The 4 a.m. wake-up calls and long drives are a part of what makes this group special.
The team generally also runs the gamut from first-timers to those on skis since early childhood.
Grade 11 student Kylee Trumble serves as captain of the girls snowboard team and follows the path of her brothers Jeff and Jake. She started with the team last year after dabbling the year before when other sports were curtailed by health restrictions, but skiing was OK.
“Both my brothers were going up every weekend,” she said. Jake, an Oak Bay High grad, was coaching and Jeff racing. The bond on the team was palpable.
“The seniors, they had this close bond and the captain was very welcoming and inclusive,” she said.
It’s a common sentiment among this year’s crew.
Bee Morrison and twin brother George also serve as captains on the team. Bee leading the girls ski team and George co-captaining the boys ski team. Grade 12 students this year, the duo was part of an inaugural ski team at Monterey Middle School in Grade 8.
Both fondly remember the team of fewer than 10 skiers travelling with the Oak Bay High gang.
“It was like the affiliate team, we did everything with them, but not with them,” George said.
“I think that’s where we got hooked,” Bee added.
Students may join for the skiing aspect, she explained, noting an uptick during COVID when it was among the sports that could continue. “I believe everybody stays for the team,” she said.
Being on the mountain is such a small part of it, the twins explained, there’s dryland and technical training and the long trips to and from the mountain.
“The ski day is very short, the rest of the day is chilling with the team,” George said.
That only intensifies at provincials, according to Bee, who’s been a couple of times.
The camaraderie also amplifies.
Bee figures the team from balmy Vancouver Island has a leg up on the competition, not on the podium perhaps, but in mood.
“We have more joy being there and just having a chance. We’re just happy to be there,” she said.
Oak Bay hopes to send a large squad to provincial championships Feb. 27 to March 1 at Sun Peaks near Kamloops.
Grade 11 skier Gavin Bayley is among those who hit the slopes before even starting in the classroom. He took to the hill at age four and grew up on Mount Washington skiing with his family until he was eight, then joined the race club and stayed there for six years. At 14, he joined snow school and earned CSA level one instructor and started teaching, achieving entry-level coaching certification. “I’m now coaching the race team I trained,” he said.
The Oak Bay High team is another reason to be on the mountain, as he’s spent most of his youth there. “It’s something where I can play around in nature,” he said. The Oak Bay High ski and snowboard team though is where he’s built the most and strongest friendships.
“You think of it as an individual sport, but really you can’t do it without a team.”
The Morrison siblings are also adamant the team wouldn’t exist without Tina Horwood, who continues to coach the team she started 10 years ago, and recently earned a Premier’s Awards for Excellence in Education in the extracurricular leadership category.
These days Horwood is joined by coaches including Stephen Bagan who stepped up this year offering his race experience and introducing technical training off the mountain, Bee said.
The team kicked off the season by beating all other Island schools in all four disciplines – the strongest finish in the team’s 10-year history – in the weekend races that finished Jan. 9.
Bee Morrison finished first in girls skiing; Bayley earned gold on the boys’ side; Dallas Batty finished third in girls snowboarding; and Alex Joiner took home first in boys snowboarding.
The final race day in the Island Race Series – the qualifier for provincial championships – is Feb. 6.
The school teams will enjoy a fun day on the slopes Feb. 13 with dual courses side-by-side and the students can choose to race a teammate or friend.
Bayley feels lucky Oak Bay is among the seven schools on the Island to even have a team, let alone head to provincials at Sun Peaks at the end of the month.
“It’s always just so much fun to go and play around on another mountain,” Bayley said. “But we’re going to have an amazing time, no matter where we are.”
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