by Lianne Marquis
This will be the first in a series of staff profiles I will write to add to The Heli-Ski Blog and The Adventure. We have so many incredible staff here at Canadian Mountain Holidays, and they all have great stories to share, the hardest part will be deciding who to feature each month.
Maria Hawkins has just returned from the Masters World Cup in Sweden, and had some great results in both Classic and Skate Skiing that were definitely worthy of a party in her honor (and a good reason to have chocolate cake).
Lianne: If your not in the office taking reservations for CMH Heli-Skiing and CMH Summer Adventures, you can be found in the mountains biking, skiing, running, training... Which one is your full time career?
Maria: Depends on the season – summer is a mixture of road & mountain biking, trail running, roller skiing and weight room. From the moment there is snow on the ground, then it’s all cross country skiing. This year started mid October at the Nordic Center on 400m of man made snow.
LM: I knew that you were a cross country skier, but I had no idea that you were competing at the World Masters level. Can you tell me about your latest races (Masters World Cup and Vasaloppett) that you just competed in? Was this your first race at this level?
MH: The Masters World Cup is held every year in a different location. This year was in Falun Sweden, a regular stop on the World Cup circuit. Competitors chose which races in which technique.
For women, the distances are 15k, 10k or 30k. There is a classic race for each of these distances and a skate race for each. (You can only do one of each distance).
This was my 5th World Masters and most successful. I won 2 medals for the first time in my classic races - the 15k and 30k. And I won the 10k skate. I’ve been 2nd and 3rd in previous World Masters skate races but not first until this year so I was pretty happy about that.
The Vasaloppet is part of the World Loppet Marathon series – a group of long cross country ski races. I think it’s the oldest. There are also races in Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Estonia, Finland, France, the US and Canada. I’ve done a few of them – the American Birkebeiner in 2001, Gatineau Loppet in 2005 and Vasaloppet in 2007. I plan to do a few more in the coming years.
LM: A 90km race Maria! How long did that take you?
MH: This year it took me 5hr 55minutes and I found it quite hard. I also did this race in 2007 in 5:38 and was the 20th woman so was super happy about that.
LM: Where do you train in the Bow Valley for a race of that distance?
MH:4hrs at the Nordic Centre means repeating a few trails and the terrain is pretty hilly; so for longer distance I prefer to go to the Cascade Fireroad, Lake Louise area or Kananaskis. This year I think because I was training for the World Masters shorter races, I didn’t do enough long distance.
LM: Not only are you a competitive cross country skier, but you also represented Canada in the Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics in cycling. Can you tell me about that experience?
MH: The main thing I remember is that it was hot and humid!! +38C in the shade and we raced our 80k at 5pm. The water in my water bottle was more like tea water – not exactly refreshing. As our race was on the first day of competition, we didn’t march in for the opening ceremonies with all the athletes so it wasn’t really until we went to the stadium to watch athletes at the end of the week that it actually felt like I was at the Olympics.
LM: Skinny skis vs fat skis? Which do you prefer?
MH:I’d have to say skinny skis for the moment. The balance and strength from cross country skiing has helped my downhill skiing so even though I don’t get out much, I do OK out there. Given the chance, I’d go ski touring – to me that’s a perfect combo.
LM: You must spend more time on your cross country skis, especially this year with the Master's World Championships?
Do you get out heli skiing when you can?
MH: Usually I get a few days of heli-skiing in each year with my sister but since I was away for a month this year, I don't think it will happen!
LM: Did you get a chance to watch the Olympic games last month while on the road? Which is your favorite winter event to watch?
MH: It was great to be in Sweden for the Olympics because they showed most of the events I wanted to see (cross country, biathlon and alpine skiing) since these are what the Swedes were winning medals in. The races were shown from start to finish without commercial interruption – it was awesome! Plus I speak & understand Swedish quite well so enjoyed brushing up on my Swedish too. I didn’t see much long track speed skating though which was disappointing. Clara Hughes is a former teammate of mine from her days as a cyclist in the early 90’s so unfortunately I missed seeing her get a bronze in the 5000m.
Congratulations Maria on your recent accomplishments and for being inducted into the Banff Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, you are an inspiration!!!
Who will I seek out for next months staff profile? Drop me a note here and let me know who you would like to see profiled.
Have you called Maria lately to reserve your 2011 Heli-Ski space yet? Great savings to those who book by April 30, 2010.