Two Warfield natives will join the Canadian snowboard-cross (SBX) development team with their first stop being a three-week training stint in “the world’s most southern city” to prepare for the upcoming snowboard season.
Tom and Mitch Pitman are making the leap from junior ranks to compete against the world’s best SBX racers this year. The twins have just turned 20 and were named to the development team at the end of May and will begin training at a facility in Ushaia, Argentina.
“They’ve restructured the national development team this year, so it’s its own team now, and we use to train with the B.C. team with the same coach but now he’s moved up to the national development team,” explained Mitch.
The Pitmans will look to compete in as many Nor Am and World Cup events as they can, but it all depends on qualifying finishes. They will begin that journey in Montafon, Austria at the end of October.
“They are going to do the training camp and World Cup selection there, so that is when we pretty much find out what happens for the rest of the year,” said Tom.
The Pitmans will try to qualify for the first two World Cup races in Montafon and Lake Louise. As the season progresses more qualifying races give SBXers another shot at World Cup events and additional spots may become available depending on results from the Canadian team.
“There are two extra spots right now, but later on in the season the guys from the national team can earn more spots for Canada,” Tom added.
Last year national team member Chris Robanske won gold in a World Cup race at Blue Mountain in Ontario and finished sixth in World Cup standings opening up three additional spots in World Cup races for upcoming Canadian SBX racers.
“When you start getting into the top half of the World Cup, that’s when they start noticing you and move you up to the national team,” added Tommy.
In March, Tom won his third consecutive gold medal at the Junior Nationals at Kelowna’s Big White ski resort, while Mitch, recovering from a sprained ankle, finished a very strong fifth.
The Pitman brothers also competed in a number of NorAm events and in World Cup races at Blue Mountain and Stoneham, Que.. The Pitmans also attended the World Junior championship in Erzurum, Turkey, where Mitch finished in 21st and Tommy 26th. Tom then competed in two more World Cup races in Switzerland, placing 45th and 32nd.
Based on good results at Nor Am and World Cup events, Tom was awarded his athlete’s assistance development card, while Mitch just missed the cut. It means that Tom receives funding, $900 per month, from Sport Canada to train and travel. However, both still receive generous support from sponsors like Teck, and local fundraising initiatives.
“The other thing about being carded is it’s like a scholarship as well because for every year you are carded you get a year paid at university,” added the twins’ mother Valerie.
“So that’s also another draw to keep competing.”
The Pitmans haven’t been on snow since the Nationals at Big White in March, but have been working and training hard all summer, and readying their new Swiss made Kessler boards for competitions.
“It’s been a long summer, so we’re looking forward to getting back to the snow,” said Mitch.
The process to prep a board is quite rigorous. The twins must apply 15 coats of wax just to start, with each coat taking about an hour to apply. Then each day of riding entails another two-to-three hours of waxing, and on race day, the right wax can make all the difference in a podium finish or an also ran.
The Pitman brothers leave for Vancouver Thursday and will fly to Ushaia for a three week training regimen on Sept. 20 after a night in Buenos Aires.