When Alpine Canada announced the 2021-22 national ski team last week, one couldn’t help but notice a four-digit number that jumped off the screen next to one of the skiers: 2003.

In ski racing lingo, that’s 2003 YOB. In layman terms, 18-years of age. 

“I’m racing against girls that I grew up watching on TV, so to see them come out of the little TV to right in front of me is pretty surreal,” said Cassidy Gray. “For the first three months with the team, I was star struck by all the Canadian girls and I spent everyday with them, so I don’t think I’m going to get over the ‘star struck’ness’ anytime soon.”

“That’s going to be me,” chimed in Britt Richardson.

Britt Richardson, an Alberta skier who has catapulted onto the national ski team in short order, by way of the Calgary Alpine Racing Club and most recently Burke Mountain Academy, is a sign that the next generation has arrived in the Great White North. Or is arriving.

B. Richardson U16 Finals SSV 2019. Photo: Malcolm Carmichael

Richardson is joined by fellow Alberta youngsters Cassidy Gray (2001) – a top ranked NCAA racer with the University of Colorado and World Cup rookie last season – and Liam Wallace (1999), of the Sunshine Alpine Racers, as well as the “renaming” of Whistler’s Asher Jordan (1999), who spent last season with the BC Ski Team.

It’s an interesting mix on the Canuck women’s team, led by aging veterans Erin Mielzynski, Marie-Michelle Gagnon and Val Grenier, mixed with a just-getting-going group of Ali Nullmeyer, Amelia Smart and the world’s seventh-ranked slalom skier Laurence St-Germain. 

Gray and Richardson, both GS specialists with impressive international and national results to back their national team naming, will add youthful energy while likely giving the veterans and sophomore racers a run for their money. 

C. Gray FIS Sl Norquay 2020. Photo: Malcolm Carmichael

Both Gray and Richardson had exceptionally busy seasons, managing school and high-level racing demands and both are taking the year off school to focus on their ski racing aspirations. (Richardson just finished high school and Gray is taking a hiatus from college.)

Both skiers were part of Alpine Canada’s “NextGen” program, a named-but-not-funded program made up of top provincial level skiers who are ranking toward fully-qualified status with the national team. 

For both Richardson, who is the world’s top ranked GS skier for her age, and Gray, who burst onto the World Cup finishing 26th in her first-ever start in Kranska Gora, Slovenia, the future is exceptionally bright.

Ski Racing Media caught up with Gray and Richardson, at the same time, on a video call. Britt just returned home from Vermont the previous night and Cassidy had just completed a 14-day quarantine.

First off, when is the last time you’ve seen each other?

Britt: We saw each other a few times this year, which is crazy as I didn’t see many other Canadians [Britt had 38 FIS starts in total in the U.S. and Europe). 

Cassidy: Yeah, I saw some of the Quebec girls at nationals, but other than that, not many.

It was a strange season like no other, and now that you’ve had some time to reflect, tell us about your experiences.

Britt: I was able to travel more than I expected, my first races were in Colorado for nationals and then I stayed in Vermont doing some local races. I thought I’d be doing those races all year but then I was able to travel more than I expected, which was pretty exciting. I was in Europe for a series of races, which was really good for me to get exposure to other racers and with what it’s like racing in Europe. 

Cassidy: There were a few points that really shifted the outcome of my season. I was not intending to go to Europe at all, that was not in the cards for me in October, but by November there was an opportunity — with four days notice they shipped me off to Europe. The next turning point was my first World Cup start [Kranska Gora]. After that the coaches wanted to keep me around for a bit. From there I was pretty back and forth, when I flew back to the U.S. I did some NCAA races … it was a little bit of a cluster with everything happening at once. There was a lot coming at me and I had to navigate new things and getting used to new environments. I had been in a relatively similar environment every year up until this year … so this was definitely different with a lot of changes.

What does it mean to you being named to the national team?

Britt: I was really excited, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be named. And super excited to work with the girls, for sure an older group than I’m normally with, so it’s going to be good for me to learn from them.

You raced World Cups last season, Cassidy, what did you learn?

Cassidy: It was a really cool group to come into. I learned a lot from them. Staying in your own lane, focussing on working what’s best for you. I’m still learning so much really. All the girls on the team were all at one point the youngest too, so they were welcoming to help out and give advice when it was needed. Also to give advice on experiences that they wish they knew, like even if this seems like a big deal, just stay in your lane, keep calm, do your thing and make sure you have your check points checked off.

Are you excited to get into a team with veteran leadership?

Britt: Ya, I’m really excited for that. I really only know Cassidy, so I’m excited to get to know them, and I know I can learn a lot from them which will be really cool.

What was your experience like coming up through your club and any coaches that you stay connected with?

Britt: I was actually with Lake Louise mostly growing up and then with CARC (Calgary Alpine Racing Club) for two years before going to Burke. My Dad [Grant] was actually my coach leading up to my time with Burke so he was my coach every year from the first time I started racing. He thinks [the national team] is a really good program for me and he really likes the coaches and thinks this will be the best step for me.

Cassidy: I haven’t skied with my club in over two years but everything that I’ve learned as a skier, and as a person, came from there. That is my friend circle and my competition circle … three or four of the girls that were in my first-ever ski group are still racing today. And I still talk to Mark [Mark Sharp, head coach of Team Pano] quite a bit as it’s a bit of a comfort thing and I trust everything he says. If I’m ever struggling, I talk to him and he tells me what he sees as fundamentals and for my skiing specifically … and it just helps a lot. Having somebody like that to talk to that you really trust is really good.

Expectations for your rookie season coming up with that national team?

Britt: Honestly, I’m not sure what next year is going to bring. It’s probably going to be more Europa Cups for me. I think I’ll be stepping my toes into that area more and than NorAms when I can. But then again, I don’t know exactly what the plan will be but I’m really excited.

Cassidy: I will also be probably spending time at Europa Cups, I’m hoping to make my break onto the World Cup next season. I’m going to give it my best effort if I get the chance. And I’m not doing school next year so I can focus all my energy on skiing.

Plans for the summer, outside of ski racing?

Cassidy: We’re going to Stelvio (Italy) for training on Monday for a few weeks and then be back home for a few months. It will be mostly drylands and getting ready for the season. I sent in my resume to a gym in Calgary and I might apply for a job in Invermere, too.

Britt: I haven’t had much time off the past couple years to be honest. But last summer we spent some time at the cabin and on the boat, but this summer I might try to get a job in Canmore in between camps. 

Youthful exuberance, grounded skiers who are trending upwards, surrounded by a solid group of veteran leaders. Sounds like a good mix.

By the numbers:

BRITT RICHARDSON

  • Residence: Canmore, Alberta
  • Club: Calgary Alpine Racing Club
  • World top ranked GS skier
  • US Nationals – 5th place GS
  • Europa Cup GS (Reiteralm, Austria) – 5th 
  • Austria National Juniors GS (St. Gallenkirch) – 3rd
  • Italian National Champs GS (Passo San Pellegrino) – 4th

CASSIDY GRAY

  • Residence: Invermere, BC
  • Club: Team Panorama
  • WC GS (Kranjska Gora) – 26th 
  • WC GS (Jasna) – 27th
  • NCAA Park City – 1st
  • World Champs GS (Cortina) – 23rd
  • World Champs Team Parallel (Cortina) – 7th
  • Italian National Champs (Pizza di Fassa) – 5th