The FIS Para Alpine Skiing Canadian and USA National Championships were held at Kimberley Alpine Resort from Mar. 24 to Mar. 28 and Kalle Ericsson, who grew up skiing in Kimberley, won gold in all five events he competed in.
Ericsson was born in Sweden, but moved to Kimberley when he was around four months old and has lived in Kimberley since then. He has skied his whole life, but this is first year on the Para Alpine race circuit.
“This was my first race series in the Para scene for sure in Kimberley,” Ericsson said. “It felt like everyone was super welcoming to me joining the circuit. It was a great experience to meet some new people and kind of understand more of what Para ski racing is all about.
“The Para Alpine community is definitely one of a kind in my opinion. It’s serious, but it’s still a lot of fun. Everybody’s super family. Everybody’s great and just looking to have a fun time ski racing and everybody’s kind of going through the same stuff, so everybody kind of just gets together and has a good time ski racing.”
Ericsson is visually impaired and skies with his guide Sierra Smith. The two have raced together since just after Christmas, and are both new to the world of Para Alpine racing. Smith skied on the Canadian National Team but had to retire due to injuries. She then got into ski coaching and then decided to become a guide, and has been training with Ericsson this past year.
“She’s great, we have a super tight relationship,” Ericsson said. “Sierra will ski with me now until we decide we don’t want to ski together. So we train and we’ll race together as long as we can, hopefully 2026 Cortina Winter Olympics.”
Once they push out of the gates, Smith skis ahead of Ericsson and the pair talk with one another through a headset. Ericsson said that Smith is his eyes while they’re skiing, telling him when and where he needs to ski faster, and explaining the things he won’t see, such as all the different terrain changes and gate combinations.
“I think that’s one of the cool things about skiing behind a guide is that we both have a lot of trust in each other,” he said. “I have to trust her and she has to trust me, so you’d think it’s pretty scary but I think it’s actually pretty comforting for both of us to be on the same track together at the same time.
“You’re kind of ski racing with another person and you get to go through the same elements. Going through the elements alone I think would be tough, but doing it with another person, it feels pretty good, it’s fun.”
Ericsson said the week of racing at KAR was great, with Dreadnaught being a good and challenging track for racing.
“The first two days it was super solid snow conditions in the morning but definitely started to soften up a bit in the afternoon,” Ericsson said. “Still, all the volunteers and everything there did an excellent job to provide the best race conditions that were needed to pull off a good race. I think it was great.”
A banquet was held on the Sunday during the races to celebrate all the athletes’ achievements. Ericsson said this was a ton of fun and was great to hang out with everyone he met over the course of the week, swap stories and hear about other people’s experiences and to just loosen up after a tough week of racing.
“I was definitely inspired after the week, after being there and racing with a bunch of other people it motivated me to push a little bit harder through this and set some bigger goals,” Ericsson said. “But I think the main thing that I can take away from this week is that it’s just nice being around people that have disabilities too and it’s nice to know you’re not alone, if that makes sense.”
This event wrapped up the 2022/23 season and so now Ericsson and Smith will train throughout the summer. The plan is to then head to New Zealand in the fall to get some races in the Western Hemisphere and then head to Europe next winter.
In terms of goals going forward, Ericsson hopes they’ll make the National Team in the coming years and then get some World Cup starts, with the ultimate goal they’re pushing for being the 2026 Paralympic Winter Games in Milano Cortina.
With such a successful showing at this past week’s national championships, the team is feeling pretty good about their future.
“It totally is [a step in the right direction] after some solid results,” Ericsson said. “It’s definitely looking pretty positive.”