By JASON TWETEN
2014 Olympic ski-cross hopeful Marielle Thompson enjoys some downtime in her home amongst the mountains
Twenty-one-year-old Whistler native Marielle Thompson is the youngest member of the Alpine Canada Ski-Cross team. Her parents, former instructors, placed her on a pair of skis as soon as she learned to walk. Now, a 2014 Olympic prospect who spends more than half the year travelling, Thompson savours breaks in her training regiment to reconnect with her favourite pastime: “When I’m skiing on the road it’s all very scheduled, you can’t really explore the mountains. So when I’m home I freeski on Whistler and Blackcomb almost every day. Especially when there’s fresh powder.”
Even when she’s not strapped into skis, Thompson is devoted to her Coast Mountain surroundings: “I love going up to Lost Lake Park for a swim, to read my book or just to lie on the grass. It’s only a five-minute bike ride.” She feels privileged to call the picturesque scenery throughout Whistler Valley her home. This summer she explored her new favourite hiking trail near Rainbow Lake, a 16-km (10-mi) trek with spectacular waterfall and wildlife views.
Along with enjoying the pristine natural surroundings, Thompson spends time reconnecting with family, friends and an increasing fan base. “Even when I go to the grocery store for milk, I get stopped by 10 people who just want to chat or catch up,” says Thompson, “It’s such a great community to live in.” Thompson can be found in town picking up the next in the Game of Thrones series from Armchair Books, enjoying one of the village art galleries or dining at the locals’ favourite Samurai Sushi.
While competitions and training continue this season, Thompson puts thoughts of her Olympic debut on the backburner. “I’m not going to stress about it until it’s actually happening. I’ve got five World Cups prior to the Olympics that I need to worry about. So once I get [to Sochi] and I’ve got my accreditation, that’s when I’ll focus on it.”
As a spectator during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Thompson had first-hand experience with the raucous atmosphere that surrounds the competitions. “I liked the idea of getting up in the morning and going to shuffle in with all the other supporters. Everyone’s just so excited and happy. I brought cowbells, so we were really loud and obnoxious,” she says proudly.
A member of the BC Ski-Cross team at the time, Thompson was glued to the TV screen when fellow Whistler resident Ashley McIvor finished first in the women’s ski-cross finals. “I think all of Whistler freaked out after Ashley won gold,” recalls Thompson. Inspiration from McIvor’s performance still resonates with Thompson today.” Ashley was really open about her experiences. She helped me a lot last year when I was in a rut. She told me to just focus on enjoying the experience, no matter how it comes.”
An intermittent training schedule will keep Thompson on the road throughout her upcoming World Cup stretch, which begins on Nakiska Mountain, near Banff. Though she will miss her friends, family and free time in Whistler, Thompson’s spirit remains competitive and focused. “I don’t let myself get distracted. I just think about what I need to do when I get to the next gate.”