Having a group of extremely talented, teenaged ski racers learning from Canadian World Cup stars is something that's become a common sight on Blackcomb in late April for the past several years.
But one early indicator that things were a little different for the fifth annual Mike and Manny's Ski Camp this year was listening to Whistler's own Mike Janyk sharing his knowledge with the J1-level athletes in multiple languages.
That's because this year's camp, founded by Janyk and fellow Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) alum Manuel Osborne-Paradis, was opened to skiers from all across Canada. Previous editions of the camp, which is free of charge to participants, only accepted applicants from within B.C.
"It's such a unique thing that we brought to B.C., and to be able to offer this across the country is very exciting," Janyk said Friday (April 27), moments after doling out slalom instruction in French to Quebec campers Alexis Asselin and Gabriel Lafontaine. "For Manny and I, to create that connection between the grassroots level to the World Cup has been great.
"It's been really cool to extend it across Canada and it's been such a success."
Ten boys and six girls from several provinces were selected for this year's camp, which ran Wednesday to Saturday (April 25 to 28), based on a letter each wrote detailing why they should be selected. The camp is aimed at first- and second-year FIS-aged skiers who might not otherwise be able to afford top-level instruction in the offseason.
"Every year it's a different dynamic, and this year with it being across Canada, it's interesting to see how they mix together," said Janyk. "But there are some really strong skiers in this group."
Meg Currie of Collingwood, Ont.'s Osler Bluff Ski Club was making her second trip to Whistler this season, having won silver in Super-G during the J1 Canadian Championships here in March. On top of getting to learn from World Cup racers, Currie said she was excited to learn she'd be getting back on snow.
"I was really happy to know that I could ski again because in Ontario the season ends in March and I was anxious to get back," she said in between slalom runs Friday. "It's really cool because Mike and Manny are still racing, they know what it's like first-hand and can give really good advice. Even the simplest things that they're doing can help us."
There were still a few local campers this year as well, with Kyle Yates and sisters Chantal and Cassidy Deane of the WMSC participating.
"It's been awesome, I'm really liking it," said Yates, who has been staying with all the campers and Osborne-Paradis in a big White Gold house where the pool table is always in use. "(The coaches) are really cool guys, too. They're funny, they've been really nice to us and play pool with us all the time."
Osborne-Paradis had an injury flare-up that kept him off the hill for most of the camp and Robbie Dixon had to miss this year's camp, but rising downhill star Ben Thomsen joined the campers on Wednesday and was among several other guest coaches helping out.
Friday was the first day campers were able to get in the gates because of some rough weather, but that didn't mean the other days were a loss.
"(Thursday) we were skiing all day in the trees without poles, hucking threes," laughed Janyk, who said coaches tried to work with campers on balance when they couldn't be training in Blackcomb's GMC Race Centre. "We got some good stuff out of it even though it's been raining.
"One kid from Quebec has never been out here to Whistler and I was like, 'If you leave here without seeing the valley because of the fog and rain, that would be such a disappointment.' But it was nice it broke up today."
Janyk added that it's nice for him to get to spend some time at home and have fun with the young racers after a long World Cup campaign.
"After our season, we don't look to be on snow. But getting out like yesterday, getting to shred in the trees and have fun with the kids, you enjoy it," he said. "(Some days) you might get up and say, 'Ugh, the last thing I want to do is go skiing.'
"But then you get up here with them and they're fired up to be here and you're like, 'Hell yeah! I'm fired up, too.'"