It was simply a stellar week for Rossland ski-cross sisters Sage and September Stefani.
Sage, 19, was named to Team Canada and is racing at the 2022 FIS Freestyle World Junior Championship in Veysonnaz, SUI, March 29-31, while September topped the podium twice in Big White.
“I’m super excited and honoured to be representing Canada again,” Sage told the Rossland News. “It feels amazing to be selected after missing out on the past two World Junior Championships due to COVID-19.
“This experience will challenge me to ski my heart out and get a taste of the best racers from around the world who are my age.”
Sage’s older sister September, 23, returned to ski-cross racing with conviction this year, and earned a gold and silver medal at the FIS NorAm ski cross race at Big White on March 19-20.
The top-of-the-podium finish comes after second and third place results at Gore Mountain, N.Y., last month.
“I am very excited about my results at Big White,” said September. “I wasn’t sure what the competition was going to be like before I got there. We were all very close in the final heats on both days and all the girls raced really well.”
September entered races between 2017 and 2021 while in university, however, mostly recreational. Her most recent results reflect the progress she has made since joining the Evolve Ski Club in Calgary.
“It has been amazing to actually be able to train for ski cross and develop some of the specialized skills needed for the sport.”
After September graduated from UBCO with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Biology in May of last year, she decided to join Sage and push herself to compete at an elite level again.
“As it looked like that fall semesters for 2021 we’re going to be online I decided to not go right back into school and take a break,” explained September.
“My sister was already skiing with the Evolve Ski Cross Club and since I had never skied at the FIS level, I decided that this would be the perfect time for me to try it out. I had previously only skied in the U16, U18 and open categories in ski cross.”
The sisters are accustomed to competing head-to-head, and Sage is currently leading the FIS NorAm Cup standings.
In early February, Sage, a second year kinesiology student at University of Calgary, made the jump to the international stage competing in European Cup races in Germany, Austria, and Italy and at the French National Championships at Los Contamines last week.
With a packed and competitive weekly racing schedule, Sage has managed to balance racing with her studies, while finishing in the top-10 in at least four of her events.
“Doing school on the road for so long has been challenging but I am slowly figuring out how to manage my university courses while still focusing on my competitions,” said Sage.
“On top of skiing for most of the day, there isn’t a lot of free time since we are expected to prep all our skis for the next day of racing, as well as do dryland activities, video review, and meal preparation. Because of this, it is important for me to make the most of our days off and get as much school done as possible.”
Sage also competed in the Youth Olympic Winter Games in 2019, and will race with seven of her Evolve teammates at the World Junior Ski Cross races in Switzerland at the end of this month.
“It’s a great honour to watch these young athletes come through the development pipeline and know that we’re looking at the next generation of great Canadian ski cross racers,” said Dave Ellis, high performance director for the Canadian Ski Cross Team. “Our Canadian team has a strong program and is consistently a podium threat at large events on World Cup and Olympic levels.
“We have a history of excellence, and events like the World Juniors offer a unique opportunity for athletes to get a taste for the next level of competition, and to push themselves and their skills on the world stage.
“It’s going to be an exciting event, and we have a strong team of athletes and coaches to represent Canada.”
Following the World Juniors, the sisters will hit the starting gate at the NorAm Cup final at Nakiska next month, and look to share the podium once again.
September says she hopes to continue racing into the 2022-23 season, and keep that friendly sibling rivalry going.
Sage’s immediate goal is to win the NorAm Cup overall title and continue to race at the world class level, with her focus on making the National ski cross team and continue her studies at U of C.
“I’m super stoked for my sister,” said Sage. “I’m really glad she is finding success in the races in Canada and I can’t wait to be racing with her again at Canadian Nationals when I am back so we can keep pushing each other to improve.
“She really is my biggest supporter alongside my parents and definitely wouldn’t be at the level I am at without them.”
The Stefani sisters will compete at the 2022 Canadian Ski Cross Nationals at Nakiska Ski Resort, April 9-10.
*Breaking News: Sage was the top Canadian in Veysonnaz on Tuesday, March 29, racing to a seventh place finish at the 2022 World Junior ski cross championship.