Sunday, March 21, 2010

Face of the Day - Andrea Bundon

There is no doubt in my mind that I can ski alone. However, it isn't nearly as enjoyable and I certainly am not able to ski as fast as when I do have a guide. So really, for me, a guide makes it possible for me to race at my top speed. Without a guide, I never would have qualified for these Games and though I don't want to take away from Murray or Lisa because without them, I never would have gotten good enough to even be eligible for the Games, but Andrea has made a huge impact on my short skiing career.

People often assume that guiding is easy - really, how hard can it be to just ski in front of someone and yell out directions, right? In reality, it's a very challenging task that not just anyone can do (trust me, I've skied with people who just don't have the knack for guiding!). Andrea not only has to be able to ski faster than me (otherwise she'd be out of breath and wouldn't be able to give any directions), but she has to quickly analyze the course, what I'm doing, what she's doing and what the competition is doing and make split decisions about what we need to do to race the best we can. All while things are moving at race pace. Phew!

Though Andrea and I decide in advance how we want to segment a race, sometimes things happen and she has to make changes to the race plan and relay them to me. For example, more than once Andrea has decided that we need to do a quick hard push to beat another skier to the top of a hill so that we can take the best line, forcing them to take the less optimal line. Or she's had to slightly modify what we'er doing based on traffic. For example, in the 5km classic race, the second to last downhill ended with a really tight S turn that was in the shade so it was super icy. On our own, that corner was tricky, but in that particular race, we came down the hill the same time as three other athletes and their guides so really, eight of us came screaming through that section. So Andrea had to figure out on the fly how to guide me through on the best line possible without getting either of us in trouble with the other skiers.

If one of us falls, we have to keep it together. If I wipe out, she has to stop and wait for me to get back up, which kills both of our momentum, not just mine. And if she falls, she has to get out of my way so that I don't get slowed up. That actually happened in the 5km classic (first time ever!) on an uphill, but Andrea kept her wits about her and barrel rolled out of my way, let me pass, got back up and ran like mad up the hill to get back in front of me. At another point in the race, I got ahead of her and the tracks were so much faster than the snow out of them and I was having such a great race that she couldn't get back in front. So she guided from behind, meaning she had to not only give me direction as to where I needed to go, she had to be remembering what was next so she could guide me through that too. Not so simple after all yet Andrea handles all of the pressure and chaos like it is a walk in the park. No matter how crazy things get, she stays calm and focused on the race and does a fantastic job of guiding me. I can't express how much I appreciate her as a guide. And I'm also proud that she is one of just three female guides at these Games because at this level, you have to be an exceptionally fit skier in order to guide and obviously not too many women can ski fast enough to do what she does.

Even more important, I appreciate all of the sacrifices Andrea has made so I can ski. She is currently a PhD student in sport sociology at UBC, but beyond her own coursework, she is also a teaching assistant for some of her supervisor's classes. If you have been following my blog, you'll know that really, we haven't been home all that much this winter, but Andrea has adjusted her teaching commitments so we could get away to ski as much as we did. That means that she has been doing some work over the internet, such as monitoring discussions groups, but when we get home, she'll have to mark all the final exams to make up for the classroom time she's missed. And yet she is doing all of this to help me.

Andrea has really been there for me for the past year. In and around both of our busy schedules, we've gone for runs together, rollerskied together, rowed together, and obviously skied together. Without Andrea, I couldn't have gotten up to the ski areas and I'm scared to even ask how many kilometres we've added together to her little SUV. Between trips to Vernon, Kelowna, Canmore, Mount Washington, Europe and all points in , we've put in a lot of time together and I have many fond memories from these trips.

Throughout this whole process, Andrea and I have learned a lot, laughed a lot and, luckily, only cried a little bit. Andrea has enriched the experience so much for me not only because she is a very capable skier, but because we have become good friends. Some athletes have guides and the two of them never become more than just that, but I'm glad to count Andrea among my friends.

So thank you Andrea for making this whole experience possible for me and for being more than just my guide. Thank you for accepting me for who I am and for helping me whenever I needed it. Thank you for challenging my mind with your academic discussions. Thank you for spending so much time away from home, friends and family so that we could get better together on skis. Thank you for your quick wit and smiling personality. It has been an incredible journey and I am so happy I got to share it with you. I hope we'll still ski together next season!


  1. Aww... thanks Courtney. And I just like to say I'd never have made the paranordic team if it weren't for you. But seriously - it's been the experience of a lifetime and I'm so happy you took me along. And it's not over yet... can you say 'Saskaloppet'?

  2. Oh - and it was my supervisor and the two other TAs that 'adjusted my teaching commitments' so that I could get away - thanks Laura and the A-team!