THINKING OF JOINING THE WILDCAT SKI TEAM?
Below is a short list of common FAQs that are asked by families who are considering joining the Wildcat Ski Team or by families who are new to ski racing. For a comprehensive guide to the Wildcat Ski Team race program and its philosophy, see our Parent’s Handbook
I’m not sure racing is for my child. Why ski racing instead of just free-skiing or lessons?
Bottom line: Kids have a blast skiing fast! Typically, kids associate skiing with the traditional structured teaching programs which were something they had to do. The Wildcat Ski Team is much different. Kids can’t wait to start their day at Wildcat. Put a kid on skis and what do they usually want to do? Ski fast! Instead of constantly reminding your kids to “slow down,” the Wildcat Ski Team encourages the kids to “ski fast” while teaching them how to do so safely, under control and in a courteous manner. Add to this the inherent benefit you see in any competitive team sport environment – the buzz of race day, the thrill of a personal best, the discipline of training – and you have a recipe for an overall terrific experience!
I am sure that you have heard many a parent with middle school kids describe how nice it is to be able to get away from that weekend high pressure social environment. As a Wildcat Ski Team family, the race community becomes your winter social environment, and the focus in that community is athleticism, team-camaraderie, and sportsmanship. The bonds that your kids will make within the race community will become incredibly strong and often become life long.
And by the way, as much as you adore your children, while they are skiing with the rest of their team, you and the rest of the adults are lapping the mountain on Wildcat’s famous powder and loving it!
My child wants to race but why choose Wildcat Ski Team over other programs in Mount Washington Valley?
Wildcat is special for a number of reasons. First, our program is one of the most economical ski racing programs in Mount Washington Valley. Because we do so much of our own fund-raising by hosting races and other events, we are able to keep the cost of the program down. Second, our coaches are all former racers with years of coaching experience and an undying passion for the sport. The program has a philosophy that balances cutting edge coaching techniques and excellent ski terrain with a low-pressure high-learning atmosphere. We believe that the greatest motivator for kids is to have fun and set their own internal goals to achieve a personal best. This is achieved virtually every day by each Wildcat Ski Team racer. Finally, for many recreational skiers in the Valley, Wildcat Mountain – with its no-nonsense facilities, expert terrain, and unparalleled snow conditions – would be their preferred mountain for skiing even if the kids weren’t in the race program.
What is a typical day’s schedule?
On a non-race day, kids will meet their coaches and teammates at 9 AM at the Den, ready to go. They will ski/train until 11:30 AM and break for lunch for 1 hour. They will resume again at 12:30 PM and ski/train until @ 3:00 PM (except the U8 half day program which ends at 11:30 AM each day)..
How much of a time commitment is racing for the race-parent(s)?
A parent’s time commitment is comprised of two key elements: 1) Attendance at your child’s races, and 2) Attendance at Wildcat hosted races.
As for race attendance, until you get into the older class (ages 13-14), all of the mountains that we compete at are in the greater Mount Washington Valley. For instance, races will be held at either Attitash, Black Mtn., Bretton Woods, Cranmore, King Pine, or Wildcat. With the exception of Bretton Woods (45 minutes), each of these mountains are less than 30 minutes from North Conway. On occasion, the State Finals or State Championships may be held at a location outside of Mount Washington Valley.
As for parent volunteer time, the key factor to remember is that the tuition at Wildcat is lower than most other programs because the team generates revenues in part by hosting a number of races throughout the year. Because the Wildcat Ski Team is an organization that is independent from Wildcat Mountain Ski Area, all Wildcat races are staffed by Wildcat Ski Team family volunteers. Participation in the Wildcat Ski Team requires each family to contribute 6 work commitments. Examples of such volunteering can be working at the race registration table, gate keeping or working course maintenance. Fortunately, there are a whole range of tasks, indoor and outdoor, physical and non-physical, all of which meets every volunteer’s ability and experience. Wildcat has traditionally had some of the most talented volunteer parents with years of experience and expertise in hosting high quality races. This makes for an excellent training ground for those of you who have never worked a race before. You will quickly become one of those highly sought after highly trained ski race volunteers. The good news is that the Wildcat Ski Team families are a real fun group of people, and working hard together develops a strong sense of community among the race parents. All of this makes the social events during the year as well as the “retro” parent’s race at the end of the year all the more fun!
It all seems a little intimidating? Can we try it out?
It really isn’t intimidating once your child starts, and yes we encourage you to try it out. As with any sport, once your child gets involved, you get familiar with all kinds of things you would never know otherwise. And the nice thing about Wildcat Ski Team parents is that there is little pretension so you won’t be expected to know what you don’t know. But YES, do feel free to come and check it out! Wildcat Ski Team will allow your child to ski with their age group for 1 day free (you will need to purchase a lift ticket) to see if they like it before you commit to the program. If you should have any additional questions, please feel free to contact the head coach, the club president or ask for a name of a Wildcat family to whom you or your child can ask your candid questions.
My youngest is 6? Is that too young?
Definitely not! Our U8 program is made up of 6 and 7 year old skiers and is geared toward safety, fundamentals, mileage and having fun! We offer a half-day program at this level to help transition your child from a mountain program into a full day racing program. No competition races are held at this age level. To assess whether it would be right for your 6 year old, please feel free to contact the head coach, the U8 coach or have your child ski with the U8 group for a free trial day.
When Does the Season Begin and End and Does it Include School Vacation?
We try to start the 1st week in December. It is obviously weather dependent and we will place an announcement on the website when our program officially begins, but a rule of thumb is usually 1st week in Dec. We end the day after the Sap Run. There may be other races that some folks do in very late March or early April, but it is on their own and we do not send coaches to those races (unless it is race that some hot shot qualified to from one of our normal races. We typically run the Sap Run on a Sat. and hold the Parents Race the next day (all hands on deck from the kids as they run the race), but you will need to check the schedule each year as that can change. The banquet is usually the following weekend and is a great time to reflect on the progress that each of the kids made throughout the year.. Also, we typically host a LaFoley Series SL later in March (sometimes after the program has ended), so we will need workers for that race (we might have to have a couple coaches ski with the kids to occupy them while their parents work the race).
Regarding school vacation, the program continues through Christmas and February vacation weeks. As for the different February vacation weeks that NH/MA schools often have, we will have coaching coverage for both weeks.
What is “The Den” and Where is it?
The Den is the Wildcat Ski Team headquarters and is located at the base of the Bobcat trail slightly above and to the right the main lodge at the base of the mountain. It is a 2-story structure that houses all of our race equipment and also includes a wax room, and two common rooms used for booting up, warm-up breaks, lunch and hanging out. It is the meeting place for all groups where racers meet up with their coaches at the start of the day and after lunch. Just a quick note: it is a solid 5 minute hike uphill from the main lodge, so give yourself enough time to hike up or take one of the lifts and ski down.
Although the Den is the hub of most Wildcat Ski Team activity, the Bobcat Lodge is also an important landmark. The Bobcat Lodge is a mini-base lodge between the Bobcat lift and the Quad lift. Like the main lodge, the Bobcat Lodge also has lockers, tables, and a cafeteria. It usually less crowded than the main lodge and is a great location to warm up (other than the Den), with a bathroom that is located nearby. It is also the location where racers will register for all races hosted by Wildcat. On the days when you volunteer to help work a race, you will need to sign in as a race worker at the registration table to assure that you get the proper race worker credit. Awards ceremonies for all Wildcat races are held there as well.
What do I need to know about tuning/waxing my kids skis?
Early in the year, the Wildcat coaches will usually do a demo session for parents and kids to instruct them on how to properly take care of your skis, sharpen the edges and wax the bases. The kids quickly learn that they will go faster and make better turns if they have tuned/waxed skis. Once the kids start getting into racing mode, and it doesn’t take long, they will want their skis sharpened and waxed quite frequently. If you aren’t familiar with tuning/waxing Wildcat coaches can help you. If you really don’t want to learn, you can always have them done professionally by a ski shop (although this can be an expensive proposition on a long-term basis). Ideally, as soon as your racer can be trusted not to ruin their skis with the various ski tools and files, THEY CAN AND SHOULD BE TAUGHT TO TUNE THEIR OWN SKIS.
For my child’s first season what kind of equipment does he/she need?
U14 and U16 equipment gets more complicated but for the U8, U10, And U12, the kids need the basics – skis, boots, poles, racing helmet (they can’t have soft ears), decent goggles, and warm undergarments (Wildcat has been known to have its fair share of cold and windy days). Although it might seem excessive, most kids race in speed suits (one piece, tight-fitting). There are a number of good used speed suits out there that you can buy at a reasonable price, and the team has a bulletin board for used gear. Also, if your child plans to wear a speed suit, be sure that your ski pants that zip along the sides. On race day, the kids will keep their ski pants on to stay warm until they get to the start. Unzippable ski pants are impossible to get off quickly at the start.
Refer to the Gear Exchange page on the website for details on accessing the on-line gear swap postings.
What do I need to know for my first day of volunteering for a race?
A race worker assignment sheet will be emailed to parents prior to the start of the race season. An updated sheet will be emailed to all workers a week or two prior to the race. Please refer to that assignment sheet for your race assignment. As a general rule, course maintenance workers need to be ready to go at 7:00 AM at the Den, registration workers at 7:15 AM at the Bobcat Lodge, gate keepers and all others at 8:30 AM at the Den. It is always a good idea to look on the race assignment sheet to see what veteran parents you might be working with. On race day and before you head to your duties, make sure you check in at the race-parent volunteer table at race registration. THE ONLY WAY YOUR FAMILY GETS CREDIT FOR YOUR WORK THAT DAY IS IF YOU SIGN IN. Be prepared to be colder than you get skiing because you may be standing around and you might want to bring a snack. Once the race starts, you may be at your post for a while.
What do I need to know for our child’s first race day?
Be early (no later than 8:00 AM). It can really be quite a zoo at registration. Your kids will be calmer if they have time to register, put their boots on, relax, and then warm up with their coach and teammates. Also, consider laminating your USSA and NHARA cards or put them in a baggie with your check for payment for the race. It is very easy to lose those cards on race day and you won’t be able to register for the race without them! If this is your first race as a spectator, take some time to figure out the race running order. The coaches will usually have a printed start list. The first run will go in order of their numbers frozen by class and gender. For example, U10 girls will go first, followed by the U10 boys, then U12 girls, then U12 boys, etc. The second run will be a reverse of their order in their class, but still frozen by class and gender. If you plan to ski, ask at registration if they are offering a reduced rate parent ticket. Many mountains do offer these and some substantially reduce their prices for us. Don’t be afraid to not ski for the day either. Most of the finish lines are at the bottom of the mountain or can be accessed by a short hike. Many parents will bring their snow-shoes for those occasions.
Remember, it is not the result that you should be concerned with, but the effort put forth by your child. It can be a pretty scary thing hopping in the starting gate for the very first time. There will be nerves and anxiety. That’s OK. Once they make it through the course, they will have a smile from ear to ear and they will have a feeling of accomplishment like never before. Be sure to have your camera ready as those pictures are priceless.