As the 12-year-old looks down from the top of the ski slope, he doesn’t think about anything other than his race. The tiny technical details – those are points that will count later, he knows – and, most of all, his speed.
He sets out, picking up speed quickly. He doesn’t even notice the wind in his face as he races down the hill – that will come later, when he reaches the bottom. It’s the Super G, his favourite race.
“I love it because I can go a lot faster,” he says. In the Super G, the gates are set further apart and it’s all about the speed as a racer flies down the hill.
Faster is right – faster than a car. He’s tipped 80 km/h in this event, and the speed calls him.
“You always feel like you’re going faster than you actually are,” he says with a laugh. “But you’re also thinking about the technical things, making little movements to help generate speed. If you get the small things right, you’ll really go fast.”
Since Sommer strapped on his first pair of skis at age four, he’s loved going fast.
Racing is Sommer’s passion, and it’s paying off in a big way for the Port Williams boy. On March 27, he and his mom, Julia Sommer-Ivey, will set out for Quebec, where he will compete at the U14 Can Am Championships at Mont Tremblant. It’s his first time racing at this level.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I’ve talked to some other skiers who competed at the Under 16s and they said the conditions are really different. My personal goal is not to get disqualified – I want to make it down the hill.”
Sommer will join two New Brunswick racers – Samuel Bosse and Dominik Aucoin from Mont Farlagne – and two other Nova Scotia racers, Grant Keefe and Callum Myers, from Ski Wentworth, in representing Atlantic Canada at the event. A total of 140 racers will compete.
Being chosen to represent the area is a point of pride, he says.
“It’s going to be completely different for me, I’m used to racing in Atlantic Canada and at the local hills, and there are going to be a lot of competitors there,” he said.
“I’m going to try my hardest.”
To get to this point, it’s taken a lot of hard work. Sommer travels to Ski Martock three times a week, spending five hours each Saturday and Sunday, plus every Wednesday night, training with his coach Mike Hardy and the Martock Ski Race Club. There’s also dryland training, he adds, which usually gets underway a few weeks before ski season begins.
It’s meant sacrificing social time with friends and catching up on school. The Grade 7 student at the Booker School in Port Williams says his teachers have been extremely supportive as he pursues his passion, often assigning his school work to do when he has down time during competitions or allowing him to hand it in after he returns.
“They’re really, really supportive – they don’t care when I get the work done, as long as I get it done. I really have to thank my coaches, and my teachers, for being so supportive of me,” he said. “I’ve improved a lot this year.”
Training in the Maritimes has its challenges, though, especially during milder winters like this one. Ski racers often have to chase the snow by attending pre-season training camps in Quebec or elsewhere, and that’s given Sommer a lot of experience skiing on other hills this year.
“The conditions haven’t been ideal, but it’s been fine,” he said. “I’ve tried a lot of different hills this year. If the conditions are too bad, we do training inside and focus on our core strength.”
Together with a great group of MSRC teammates and coaches, Sommer visited Quebec twice for two pre-season training camps in December before competing in 12 nationally recognized ski races in the eastern provinces. It was his points total at those events that snagged him a spot at the Can Am Championships.
At Mont Tremblant, Sommer will compete with the best under-14 skiers from across Canada and the United States in the Super G, Giant Slalom, Slalom and a combined skills event. The racers were selected based on their Alpine Canada national points, which is calculated by their ranking in each alpine ski race they attend.
Competing at this level is a great kicking off point for following one of his biggest dreams, he says.
“I’d like to keep going and try to get to the fifth level. That’s the international circuit,” he says. “I really enjoy working on something and having a goal.”
The competition will get underway on March 30, with Sommer’s favourite event, the Super G, and will wrap up on April 2.