Yukon Cross Country held a retirement party for former sport coordinator and head coach Alain Masson at the Whitehorse Legion the evening of Aug. 26.
Masson, 62, originally from Montreal, moved to the Yukon in 1993.
He worked for the national team from 1992 to 1995. While with them, he was based in Whitehorse but travelled around with the national team.
Masson ran the Yukon cross country ski program since 1995.
A large crowd packed the building to wish him bonne chance in his retirement.
Masson explained why they were having a retirement party for him now after he announced his retirement in May.
“When I retired, it was during the winter and we had not many people, we had a little thing for VIPs and parents at the end of the ski season. This is more friends and people I’ve known forever.
“It’s kind of fun to see people I haven’t seen for a few months. Usually with being involved with this community I see parents and athletes all the time but now (his coaching career) ended in May, so it’s been a few months.”
Masson isn’t going to be fully retired, however.
“In November, I’ll start working full time for the national ski team for the winter, from November to the end of March on the World Cup doing race support, which I did on and off for all these years, but I used to do full-time before I came to the Yukon. I’m really looking forward to doing that.”
Masson is planning on working with the national ski team for the next few seasons.
Masson was asked what he thought he was going to miss the most about coaching.
“The athletes,” replied Masson. “Not seeing them at races and at training camps. Like this summer, they’ve been on training camps every couple of weeks. The most fun activities you can have with kids, so already missing that, and ski races.
“I may be around for the odd race in Canada. I won’t be coaching them so that’ll be fun to see them progress in race form and I think that’s what I’m gonna miss the most. Just traveling with kids and seeing how they do at competitions.”
Among his many career highlights, Masson listed seeing “so many kids from Whitehorse making it to the National Ski Team structures, whether it’s junior national team members or senior national team, representing Canada in international competition. I think that always is what brought me the most joy, to see them being able to compete with
the best athletes in Canada.”
Masson has been taking full advantage of his retirement.
“I’ve really enjoyed being able to do things that I haven’t done for so long. I’ve started to play golf again after almost 30 years. I play once a week, so that’s fantastic. Fishing, a lot of fishing, doing a lot of physical activities, with friends. Hiking, mountain biking, running. I used to do some but with regular team training and training camps, you can’t do as much. It’s been very fun.”
Family has also been keeping Masson busy.
“I have two boys and they’re both involved in sports at the high-performance levels. Sasha’s on the national team, and I’ll get to see more of him, hopefully.
Masson’s other son Felix, of course, is with the Vancouver Whitecaps development squad, one step below Whitehorse soccer trailblazer Joe Hanson.
“He was in a tournament in Sweden,” related Masson. “I saw him for a little bit. I’m hoping to see him regularly when I go to Vancouver.”
Of Felix going into the Whitecaps organization, Masson said, “I’m so happy. He played an intra-squad game today and two days ago played a game against the older team.”
Felix even played against Hanson in Saturday’s intra-squad game.
“The players that didn’t play last night played Felix’s squad this morning, so he said that was super-fun.
“It was quite different, because Joe and the other team are quite a bit faster and older. So it’s quite the challenge.”
“Sasha was (doing) very well. He was in a camp and he just came back home. He’s here tonight because he just came back from Quebec and Vermont, where he had a camp.
“Before that, he’s been training. They went to France for a training camp on snow. Nice to catch up with him. That’s why I was biking with him a lot. Because he’s only here until Wednesday. A quick little visit home.”
Masson was asked if he still gives Sasha a lot of advice.
“No,” he replied. “I help him when he asked me, helping with roller-skiing today, but I’ve never been coaching him since he left the Yukon. He has a full-time coach. He has a coach with the national ski team and he has a coach with his national training centre.”
Masson said it’s nice to just be a parent.
Masson added a thank you to everybody involved with the cross-country ski program over the years. “One of the reason for all the success in the Yukon of this ski program is community support, media, volunteers, parents, everybody.
“The media have been amazing. We get a a lot more attention than some of the clubs against which we compete. Where they compete in a big centre, they don’t get as much.”