Whistler Mountain Ski Club product Ford Swette has earned a berth at this year's Junior World Ski Championships on the strength of great performances both in Europe and North America over the past two months.
The third-year B.C. Ski Team member learned of his selection shortly after recording a career-best 17th-place finish in a Nor-Am Cup giant slalom at Vail, Colo., on Feb. 7.
"I phoned my parents right away and told them, I was pretty happy" Swette told The Question on Monday (Feb. 13) when detailing his reaction to the news. "No one really knew about what the plan was for world juniors or who was going. I had no idea if they'd be taking some kids older than me (or not) but I was able to pull through."
The 19-year-old will compete in giant slalom at the event, taking place Feb. 29 to March 9 at Roccoraso, Italy.
"I really don't know what to expect - I have no idea what it's going to be like whatsoever," said Swette. "I'd be ecstatic with a top 10 at world juniors."
The Canadian team will be comprised of five male and seven female skiers, including Whistler's Madison McLeish. The national team member had two top-15 finishes in the women's speed races at last year's event.
Swette, fellow Whistler-based skiers Brodie Seger and Ben MacLean, and three other B.C. Ski Team members spent the first three weeks of January training and racing in Europe. Head coach Brandon Dyksterhouse said the venture through Austria, Germany, Croatia and other nations was beneficial for his skiers.
"All in all, it was quite a successful trip, even though it was very challenging driving three to four hours a day, dodging snowstorms, trying to find races that weren't being cancelled," said Dyksterhouse, noting that living such a lifestyle is something skiers have to embrace in order to find success at the top level.
The B.C. Team ran into some weird weather early in the European trip and had a handful of races cancelled. That led to a build-up of racers at events later in the trip, and the B.C. skiers were up against fields of close to 250 men.
"On top of that, you'd have 145 women so with 400 racers in one day, it was quite the experience, as you can imagine," said Dyksterhouse.
For the locals on the trip, Seger improved upon his bib number in nearly all eight of his races, while MacLean had a number of top-25 finishes in FIS and Citizen races.
Swette, meanwhile, finished second in a National Junior Race at Maria Alm, Austria, but it was 10th- and 11th-place results on the World Cup hill at Zagreb, Croatia earlier in the trip that he said he was most pleased with.
"It's quite different (in Europe) in the sense that there's a different level of intensity that North America doesn't always have," said Swette.
The squad got to watch teammate Conrad Pridy race the World Cup downhill at Kitzbuhel, Austria during the trip but had taken off before Pridy secured the first World Cup points of his career by placing 25th at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Pridy has continued to put together impressive performances since, winning the Nor-Am Cup downhill at Aspen on Sunday (Feb. 12) and following up with a third-place finish Tuesday (Feb. 14). Dyksterhouse said Pridy will get another opportunity to race on the World Cup this season at Kvitfjell, Norway.
Whistler's other B.C. Ski Team member, Broderick Thompson, missed the trip to Europe as he was home nursing an arm injury, but is close to full health and has resumed training with the team.
"If there's anyone who can get the guys fired up, it's Brod, because his glass is always half-full and he's always competitive at everything he does," said Dyksterhouse.
MacLean, meanwhile, has injured his knee since returning to North America and his status was unknown at press time.