A Glimpse into the 100 Year Past of the UBC Nordic Ski Team

Nordic skiing at UBC began in 1920. Ski racing in the Vancouver area followed shortly after in March 1927, when Hollyburn Mountain held their first ski race for both men’s and women’s teams. We assume that racing at UBC started in the early 1930s for both men and women. The strongly held tradition of the sport at UBC is maintained to this day. The dedication, grit and leadership of many individuals has held the team together for 100 years– notably, skier/coach Robert Ragotte (2011-2016). 


Robert Ragotte, 2011-2016

Robert Ragotte, a 2016 UBC grad, exemplifies all that characteristics of a nordic skier at UBC. Not only was he a student athlete, but also took on the leadership position as coach of the team in his second year. Robert was among a team of UBC Thunderbird athletes, coaches and administrators that went to El Salvador to build homes as part of the Habitat for Humanity Global Village volunteer program in 2013; a recipient of the Thunderbird Athletic Council leadership award; an academic all Canadian; a Rhodes Scholar; and studied at the Jenner Institute where the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine was developed. Robert embodies what it means to truly be a nordic skier. In an interview with Robert, he claimed that “most of [his] best memories at UBC were with the UBC nordic ski team,” and we hope to keep these memories going for generations to come.


Unfortunately in 2014 the UBC Sports review declared that nordic skiing would no longer be a varsity team. Rather, they were to be “realigned to a competitive club,” along with alpine skiing and women’s softball. This would give the team “more time to develop new models of community support.” In case you’re curious, here is a link to the last varsity UBC nordic team (2014-2015).


This was hard news to swallow, however the team was able to recover and make the most of the situation. We used this setback to come back stronger and focus on building a fun, competitive and supportive team environment. We are not only able to provide a broad sense of community, but we continue to post provincial and national podiums. Skiing is more than just an individual sport. It requires a team of individuals supporting one another to do and achieve more– such a sentiment is passed along from generation to generation. The history of nordic skiing at UBC is far from over– the new era of nordic skiing has just begun.


Zoom core with the UBC nordic ski team, 2020

In more recent times, the Nordic team has been keeping up the gruelling interval sessions, although a little further apart than usual. Along with keeping our two metres distance, masks have become a mandatory accessory at practice (with the bonus of low-budget altitude training!!). Before each workout, every skier fills out a health survey to assure they are free from COVID symptoms and are safe to run with the group. When we’re not out running, Mykal has been leading weekly core sessions over Zoom. Some of us are getting abs, and some of us have learned to strategically place the camera to make it look like we’re holding a plank. Overall, we’ve been making the best we can of this situation and having loads of fun socials over Zoom!


Rolling into the winter, we will be attending the Tuesday night races at Cypress, which remain a fan favourite among UBC nordic members. Robert Ragotte’s favourite place to ski was always at Cypress for these races and this sentiment continues to this day. We are hopeful that the races will continue, assuming that COVID settles down, are beyond excited to start ski racing!