Sisterhood of the Traveling Skis
By Michael Mastarciyan
They don't have the same mother.
They grew up speaking different languages.
And they don't even look alike.
Still, despite all of these differences, Canadian slalom specialists Anna Goodman and Marie-Michele Gagnon are for all intents and purposes - sisters.
During a photo shoot for a Canadian magazine in July, Gagnon and Goodman reflected on their very special relationship.
"We travel everywhere together and manage to have a lot of fun together wherever we go! Our team pretty much becomes our family during the ski season and Anna and I are definitely like sisters! It's kind of neat that we share the same passions; from skiing, to mountain biking, cooking and photography," said Gagnon.
Goodman and Gagnon's friendship was born out of countless hours of training, racing and living together on the road during ski season. But before long, they began to spend their free time together and what began as a friendship morphed into what is now best described as a "sisterhood."
"Anna is kind of like the big sister you turn to for just about anything! She is a really good teammate, but also a great friend! She's my "traveling" sister!" said Gagnon.
"Having Mitch around as my "sister-in-crime" is always refreshing because I know we can leave the ski hill and go dance our butts off and have a good time no matter what! Whether its disco bowling in Sweden, or dancing like rock stars after the Olympics, once we leave the ski hill, we both know how to have fun even if it wasn't our best race," Goodman added.
Goodman and Gagnon's list of similarities is long both on and off the slopes. Both love to slalom (they are founding members of the Slalom Storm - the nickname for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team's young crew of up and coming tech skiers). Both are from Quebec. Both love to experiment with cooking and baking, and when they're not ski racing, both are avid mountain bikers and photographers.
"Although we only met a few years ago, spending up to eight months of each year together competing, training, travelling, exploring, laughing and helping each other through all of the ups and downs that ski go along with racing has made our friendship close to one between sisters. We sit down for dinner every night as a "family" with our coaches and teammates, and we wake up and tackle each day on the hill in the same way," said Goodman.
But their shared interests extend beyond the mountains they love to ride and photograph. Gagnon and Goodman even share a similar taste when it comes down to selecting boyfriends. Both, it seems, have a distinct penchant for US Ski Team racers who hail from the Tahoe, California area. Goodman is dating American racer Marco Sullivan, and Gagnon is in a relationship with his teammate Travis Ganong.
"I can see why it might look like our boyfriends being from the same town might look like a double date fix-up or something...but it wasn't! When I met Travis, I didn't even know Anna. She was on the Canadian Team and I was on the Quebec Team. It was pure coincidence that we both started dating guys both from The US ski team and from Tahoe. It is really nice to have a good friend who also spends a lot of time in Tahoe too, that way we can go mountain biking and hiking together!" said Gagnon.
Sullivan disagrees with the coincidence notion. He sees a darker, more conspiratorial reasoning behind the "coincidental" meeting of the two couples.
"I personally think it was a secret set-up by the Canadian Government who has been trying to infiltrate the US Ski Team for years. They knew that I would not be able to resist the charm of one of their young slalom stars! When I heard that Travis had been duped in a similar fashion I knew that we had to be a part of a bigger plot. It has been great though to bring some international flavor to the Tahoe area even though I still make Anna put on her earmuffs when I am discussing serious skiing related Intel," said Sullivan with tongue deeply planted in cheek.
For Ganong, a true romantic at heart, the meeting of the two skiing couples was written in the stars - a cosmic happening that was more Kismet than Bourne Conspiracy.
"It's kind of funny how similar things are for Marco and me. Who would have thought that two Californians who grew up skiing Squaw Valley would end up with two Quebecers! Whether it is cooking new healthy dishes, or photographing the turquoise shorelines, pine forests and snowy peaks of Tahoe, Marie and Anna have shown Marco and me some new ways to enjoy our homes! The next step is to teach them how to handle our bottomless powder! They aren't quite accustomed to that yet, but with their skiing talents, I'm sure it won't take long!" said Ganong.
For Goodman, the Canada-US ski team dating situation is a pretty cool thing too - just don't ask her to hit the powder with the Californians!
"I think it's funny that we both grew up skiing on tiny, icy mountains in the East, but we were drawn to guys from amazing powdery mountains out West. The first and last time I skied powder with powder skis was with Marco two years ago! I still have a lot to learn and I think that Mitch and I should just let Marco and Travis do their thing, while we can un-embarrassingly learn to ski powder together!"
With their first Olympics under their collective belt, a successful post-season knee operation and rehab for Goodman, and a new race season on the horizon, Goodman and Gagnon confess they are ready to take their World Cup efforts to a whole new level, and to spark a tech-racing renaissance for Canada's female alpine skiers.
"Although the Olympics were a milestone in my career so far, having been injured while competing makes me hungry for the next Olympics where I hope to be 100% healthy and fast! My rehab has been going awesomely, at this point I no longer feel like I am rehabbing, but that I am preparing for next season and getting stronger! I won't be skiing in New Zealand in August with the rest of the team, but having an extra month to work out will probably put me into the best shape of my career before I get on snow in September. From there I will take it day by day and hopefully come back stronger before long," said Goodman.
"I can't wait to get back on skis! It has been such a long-time off snow and I am super excited for this summer's training. I ended last season really well with a load of confidence for next year! I feel like the Olympics were a big turn around for me. I had a bit of a struggle before the Olympics, but I have learned so much since. I'm certain we will be on the podium within the next few years," said Gagnon.