With the ski cross World Cup season starting this week, head coach Stanley Hayer provides an outlook on the season.
Full name: Stanley Hayer
Hometown: Kimberley, BC
Years coaching: 20
Years coaching national team: 13 years
Years as national team head coach: 8 years
What should fans know about this group:
We have a strong group of athletes dedicated to being their best. Every athlete has the goal of getting on the podium, and at the same time looking big picture at their progression. The staff’s goal is to get consistent improvement from each athlete, regardless of their current level, which will help them reach their full potential. We did have a key team member retire, Brady Leman, who was a big part of our group’s identity and drive. However, his stepping away has opened the door for the other athletes to step up and put their stamp on the group’s culture. If you look at black and white results, we are looking to defend the overall men’s title, capture the Nations Cup and to be a podium threat day in and day out on the circuit.
Who are some of the athletes that Canadians will be hearing about this season:
On the men’s side, Reece Howden has had an amazing start to his career, and maintaining that level of performance is a challenge that he has faced head on. We are looking forward to seeing what all of their hard work brings for Kris Mahler and Jared Schmidt. Both are on the cusp of consistently achieving top results. Kevin Drury has refocused energy and with his skill, should be a name we hear more about this season. For our younger athletes, Carson Cook and Gavin Rowell look to continue their march up the rankings while pulling the rest of our development group with them. On the women’s side, we have the consistent Marielle Thompson and Britt Phelan leading the charge. India Sherret may be the wild card this season after a very productive block of summer dryland training. And we are just as excited to see what Hannah Schmidt, Tiana Gairns and Abby McEwen can do with another year of experience under their belts. And the whole group is going to miss having Courtney Hoffos on the circuit as she recovers from injury.
What race (s) are you most looking forward to this season?
We do have a few events that are new on our calendar that the team is excited to race on. Alleghe, ITA (for the coffee), St. Mortiz, SUI (the history and the cheese) and Oberwiesenthal, GER (close to Czech and schnitzel). St Moritz will have the World Championships in 2025 so that is probably the most important venue of the season. Having a home race at Nakiska this season also ranks high. It is always amazing to see how hard athletes push at a home race, they seem to find another gear when they have friends and family in the crowd.
Looking ahead to the Cortina 2026 Olympic Winter Games, where do you feel the team is at?
We have a very strong core group of athletes and staff as we work towards Cortina 2026. Over the next two years the goal is to keep these athletes healthy and motivated, and to also build a grassroots system where we can capture athletes that may surprise at the World Cup level.
What makes a great ski racer?
This is very individual because we do see many different techniques and personalities succeed at ski cross. There are a few underlying character traits that do stand out:
1. Effort: get the best out of each day, this could mean more dryland, more skiing, and can also mean more rest and recovery.
2. Focus: athletes need outlets to escape the pressures of competing but in the end, their goals and their pathway need to be very clear.
3. Connection: results are a huge part of how athletes judge themselves but if results can be complimented by an approachable personality willing to step out of the box to build interest both in the athlete and the sport, you may just get the superstar athletes that can inspire future generations.