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Bow Valley cross-country skiers taking on world’s best

"They have huge potential and nothing to lose.”
20211124  Xavier McKeever 0007
Nordiq Canada national junior team member Xavier McKeever poses for a portrait at the Canmore Nordic in November 2021. RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE - The best young talent on the trails are finally ready to show what they have at the 2023 FIS Nordic Junior/U23 Cross-Country World Ski Championships.

It’s Canada’s turn to host the major international event starting Friday (Jan. 27) in Whistler, B.C., and in the mix for glory is a strong representative of Bow Valley-based athletes.

Local cross-country standouts selected to compete include Xavier McKeever, Ry Prior, Anna Stewart, Marlie Molinaro, Sonjaa Schmidt, Amelia Wells, Maximilian Hollmann, Anna Parent, Noah Weir Chaba, and Luke Fricker, 

Representing Team Great Britain are Canmore-raised athletes Sophia Wilson and Tabitha Williams. 

“It’s at home, they know those courses, and we had the nationals there last year,” said Alain Parent, head coach of Team Trail Sports, which is sending three local athletes to the championships. “And now they’ll have the home crowd advantage instead of always going to Europe, so they're thinking big. They have huge potential and nothing to lose.”

A major advantage for local and Canadian athletes is foreknowledge of the courses in Whistler, which were used in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

“There’s a few funky things about it,” said Parent. “It’s a blend with different techniques and transitions. [The athletes know where to] lead in certain parts of the course and where to attack in other parts, so it's a good thing to have in the back of your mind when you're racing out there.”

Having raced in Whistler three times, Noah Weir Chaba has seen how Mother Nature tries to make it more difficult on skiers.

“I’ve raced in pretty much every single condition here from rain to snow to hard-packed ice to slush. It really just depends on the day what the conditions are going to be like,” said Weir Chaba.

“I don’t really know where I stand against the rest of the world so that will be a cool thing to see and see how I’m doing against literally the best.”

The 18-year-old from Edmonton, who trains in Canmore with Team Trail Sports, qualified for the junior worlds after placing third in the skate race in Prince George last weekend. Going into the final qualification competition, he was “a long shot” to be selected, but proved to be one of the rising prospects alongside the likes of Xavier McKeever.

“He’s never raced at that level before, but he was steady throughout the week and he deserved that spot,” said Parent.

Opening ceremonies are Friday (Jan. 27) at 1:30 p.m. (MST) and will be livestreamed.

The junior sprint opens the racing at the Nordic Junior/U23 Cross-Country World Ski Championships, Saturday at 11 a.m. (MST).

For a schedule of races and live streams, visit

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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