Bala alpine skier Northrop Johnston started off having a rough season, but his finest hour came in April at the last slalom race of the season at Le Relais, Quebec, where he landed in 18th place out of 139 skiers.
BALA - An otherwise rough season ended on a high note for Bala skier Northrop Johnston.
When this newspaper last covered Johnston’s progress, he was taking on some of Canada’s best skiers at the GMC alpine championships in Nakiska, Alberta. Kelby Halbert, Jan Hudec and Dustin Cook were just a few of the big names Johnston was competing against.
Although he didn’t do as well as he would have liked at the Alberta championships, Johnston did have a happy ending to his season.
Looking back, however, he said he was frustrated by his initial performance.
“It was a frustrating season at times, but I had my highlights,” he said. “There were days where everything came together, but it’s tough to get it every day — you’re always striving to get better and better and to improve yourself.”
The hiccups started in December during his first race of the season in Val Saint-Come, Quebec. His practice runs went fine, but when race time came, he accidentally strapped on somebody else’s skis, which later popped off and prevented him from finishing.
Things didn’t get easier when Johnston entered the GMC Championships on March 26. On his first day in the competition, he finished the downhill event in 59th place out of 77 skiers. In the super G event the following day, he positioned his body incorrectly and wind resistance blew him down to 65th place out of 88 skiers.
“I was just dragging wind on the way down because I was more focused on getting a feel for the skis and creating the least resistance on the snow,” he said. “I guess I just forgot to tuck.”
Johnston struggled and stumbled through the super combined, super G and giant slalom events in the third and fourth days of the competition. In the competition’s final day, he wasn’t able to complete the last slalom race when he ran into a gate.
“I got too close and my ski tip caught the gate and I straddled it. Each ski went on a different side of the gate,” he said. “It’s illegal to finish off like that; the rules state that you have to get both ski tips and both boots around each gate.”
His comeback, however, followed in subsequent competitions that took him back to Quebec in early April. Having placed 46th and 51st out of 148 skiers at the Stoneham slalom events in Quebec, Johnston followed it up with his best race of the season in the slalom race at Le Relais, where he ended up in 18th place out of 139 skiers.
“All season I hadn’t had one race where everything worked for me, but in that race everything just clicked,” he said. “You have your rough days, but I just love the feeling (of skiing) — it’s like you’re flying.”
Johnston, who says his dream is to one day compete with the Ontario Ski team, said one of the most rewarding memories of the season was being able to watch and learn from veteran skiers that he’s grown up watching on television.
“You can watch the guys on TV, but you really don’t get a feel for how good the skiing is, or what it really looks like, unless you’re standing on the hill,” he said.