Raising World Cup champions – ski moms for the win

by Marie-Piere Belisle-Kennedy

Celebrating Canada’s victorious alpine racing season is a family affair for our crowned World Cup winners, like James “Jack” Crawford and Valérie Grenier. What they have accomplished is what young ski racers dream about as they devote long hours of training while parents cheer on. Raising kids in high performance sports involves a lot of time, money and sacrifices. We reached out to their proud supportive ski moms to discuss what it takes to raise world champs and manage life as a family.

Writer Marie-Piere Belisle-Kennedy sat down with champion James Crawford (Jack), his mom Laurel Scott Crawford, and champion Valerie Grenier and her mom Nathalie Bourdon-Grenier in order to learn more what contributed to their success. Note: Parts of this interview were previously published in the fall 2023 issue of Ski Canada Magazine.

Meet the Crawfords and the Grenier families

The Crawford family

Mom Laurel and dad Angus Crawford have raised two world cup ski racers on the Canadian national team who performed at the highest level, Jack and Candace.

MP: How did you split your time between their different schedules?

Laurel:  Early on, it was figure skating for Candace and hockey for Jack before they both decided to really focus on ski racing at Georgian Peaks. Their friends were a big part of it. Then once they reached the next levels, we split up our time, and eventually they moved out west to train more before making the national team. It was a family affair.  Angus had raced and Ken Read’s family took in our kids out west while we had to work back in Ontario. There is no jealousy between the siblings, they are really proud of each other, but as a mom I had to watch out for both and see how they are doing when they were getting different results or if one was injured and one was on the podium. It was not easy, but they always knew they could call us and count on us wherever they were in the world.

Jack: My family was always supportive of me and my goals. To make sure young athletes are not burning out, you have to create an environment where they’re not overdoing it at a young age, because when you get older, you have to be able to perform and if you burn out you don’t absorb the information, so you’re not able to improve. Also, if you’re somebody who struggles to be away from home, ski racing is probably not going to be the right sport for you. I’d also say keep persevering as most top speed men on the circuit are the older ones too!

MP: Can you share 5 things you need to succeed in this sport?

Jack: Discipline, desire, fear (without nerves, you may not go further or push harder). Performance on command is a must – if you have that you could be a top-level athlete in any sport, just doing what you know not trying to control it. Ski technically well, put the pressure in the right place and go fast. You don’t have to do crazy things. And if it doesn’t work right away, just keep adapting.


Val Grenier’s family: 

MP: Hello Grenier family! Mom Nathalie and dad Gabriel have also raised two highly gifted kids in ski racing, Valerie and her brother Francis. Tell us how it was in the early days at the Tremblant ski club?

Nathalie:  My husband and I both loved skiing so when the kids were very, very young, we brought the kids to try it and they really loved it. We wanted to enjoy this sport as a family. Right from the start, they were very talented and caught on very fast. So it just started like that, and then we put them in lessons and in the racing club soon after and coaches noticed.  At that time it was all about the kids. We wanted to be there for them and support them in every way we could. Eventually our son left the racing but we always made sure they would finish everything they started. Never quit. They were also excellent at every sport they tried like water skiing too.

MP: What are some fundamentals for parents to help their kid succeed?

Nathalie: Make it fun. Have patience, unconditional love, belief in their abilities, boost their confidence, support, but they must be ready to work hard and put their sport first. Be present.

Valerie: My mom is really my best friend. I feel I have been very lucky that my parents have always been there along the way. The importance of knowing that no one doubts you and your capabilities has been everything. My biggest fan is still my brother and I value his opinion above all else when we talk skiing. What my family has done for me to get to where I am is incredible. I battled through injuries, surgeries and a lot of uncertainty. The fact that I won a GS world cup not won by a Canadian woman since 1974 is a milestone I shared with them and my entire team!