Hannah Schmidt leading the Carleton ski team

Hannah Schmidt is a third-year criminology student and member of the Carleton alpine ski team, who has now found herself as the team captain and the club’s president.

Schmidt has taken a long, complicated path to Carleton. Navigating the ups and downs of athletic life, she has taken on the role of running the ski team because of her love of the team.

“I keep doing it because I just love it, I can’t stop,” she said when asked about what has kept her involved with the sport after so many quit post-high school.

Schmidt is also a relative outsider to the world of Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) ski racing—without a big team to back her, she has won gold in three events and finished on the podium five other times in her two years on the team.

The traditional road for an alpine skier is to go from a regional team to a provincial team and then to a national or National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) team, with racers often finding RSEQ as a quick way to make a name for themselves on the North American racing scene.

At the top of the RSEQ are the Université de Montreal and Université Laval. With both the largest teams and budgets, they dominate the team categories. However, Schmidt’s black Ravens coat has become a mainstay in top 10 finishes.

Schmidt began her ski career early, racing for the Mont-Tremblant ski club at a young age. She grew up racing on both the under-14 and under-16 teams at the club, and moved onto the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) team for a season.

Her first bout with the unpredictable nature of the sport came just one year into her FIS racing career, as the Mont-Tremblant FIS team folded for a few years, forcing her to base herself out of her hometown of Dunrobin, Ont. She joined the National Capital Outaouais (NCO) ski team, the local regional team.

While on the NCO team Schmidt recieved several invites to try out for the Quebec provincial team and amassed several Quebec Super Series podiums and wins. Despite all her success, she never made the provincial teams, something some of her teammates from the time still criticize to this day.

Former University of Ottawa (U of O) ski racer and NCO teammate Olexa Chewpa doesn’t mince words when asked.

“It’s parent politics,” was the only answer he gave when asked about Schmidt being left off the Quebec provincial team.

Schmidt herself has a more diplomatic answer, saying that she came up simply at the wrong time.

“If you look at the national team now, there’s three girls from that Quebec team on it now. A few years later, I was asked to try out again but I was told I was too old and ski racing is a young sport, so that’s more my issue with it,” she said.

Nevertheless, Schmidt continued to turn heads with results not often seen from a regional racer. It wasn’t long until she began attracting the attention of NCAA schools, drawn in by her talent and drive.

“I looked at the U.S. and it just wasn’t a fit financially,” Schmidt said. “I started looking at home, and one of my old coaches suggested helping start a program at Carleton.”

The praise is universal when it comes to Schmidt, both for her own work ethic and fostering a positive team atmosphere.

“Hannah made ski racing fun, but also gave it an elite competition feel. She was always challenging herself and others around her, but not in a demeaning way,” said ex-NCO teammate and Calabogie under-16 coach Katherine Van Buren when asked of her time racing with Schmidt. “I intend to pass on the lessons she taught me to my athletes now.”

Carleton’s ski team was started in 2015 by Gabriel Bouffard with help from Schmidt. The team merged with the U of O and the University of Quebec to bring in more members.

However, difficulty struck when going into the 2016-17 season, as the U of O decided not to give competitive club status to their alpine program, effectively cutting half the team and the training partners Schmidt had.

Bouffard himself parted ways with the team during the off-season in 2016, stating that he had become too busy to continue running three adjacent programs at three different schools.

Schmidt decided to take over the operations of the team as the president of the competitive club.

“Hannah just never gives up,” Bouffard said. “She always did more than was demanded.”

Having won rookie of the year in 2015, being named one of RSEQ’s athletes to watch in ski racing, and joining Team Canada at the Winter Universiade games last season in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Schmidt is ready to go all in again for another year of RSEQ racing.

Schmidt has since found training partners with the McGill University ski team, who have offered her training camp spots and travel arrangements.

Counting on the support from them, the broader Ottawa ski racing community, and Carleton, she said that the goal for this year is to win as much as possible.

“I do know that sometimes it gets to my head, but it’ll also make me push harder in the gym and on snow to stay on top,” Schmidt said.