Joss Advocaat might have to go to Verbier, Switzerland, to get out of his comfort zone.
Advocaat, a 17-year-old Sun Peaks resident, is planning to head to Verbier for the world championships of speed skiing from April 15-21. It will be his first world championships after earning an invitation following the Velocity Challenge and World Cup events at Sun Peaks earlier this month.
Speed skiing is a sport in which athletes race straight down hills and are judged based on speed rather than time. It's not for the faint of heart - skiers, wearing rubber suits and aerodynamic helmets, can hit speeds of 160 or 170 km/h.
Advocaat watched his dad, Rick, compete at the Velocity Challenge in 2011, and figured it would be a fun way to finally let loose.
"When I used to free ski, I liked to go really fast," says Advocaat, who drives into Kamloops and attends Sa-Hali secondary. "But I never got out of my comfort zone."
If there was ever a way to get out of a comfort zone quickly, it would be by flying straight down a hill on a pair of skis.
Advocaat began practising with the Sun Peaks Speed Skiing Club last year, but the Velocity Challenge was cancelled and he couldn't compete. He ended up going to a club meet in Terrace and finished second overall at 134.67 km/h.
Speed skiing isn't as big in Canada as it is in Europe - the Sun Peaks event is the only World Cup not held in Europe - and there aren't many competitions in these parts. Because of this, Advocaat had to wait until this year's races at Sun Peaks.
There, he reached 151 km/h in regular competition and was ninth in the men's unlimited race with a speed of 165.20 km/h.
"It didn't really feel like I was going that fast," he says. "The skis are really long . . . they're eight feet long, and it's really smooth."
The course in Switzerland is much different from the Sun Peaks Headwall. While the Sun Peaks track has two blind rollers, forcing the skier to rely on visualization and instincts, European tracks are straight downhill.
The Verbier track has a ramp over rocks at the top of the track, and skiers will end up racing longer than normal. And faster . . . much faster.
"The world record is 197 (km/h), but they're expecting we'll get going well over 200 . . . maybe 220 or 230," Advocaat says. "The track at Sun Peaks, it lasts about seven seconds. This one takes about 30."
The ramp at the start of the track is 60 degrees, about twice as steep as normal.
"I think I'm prepared for it," Advocaat says. "But once I get there and see it myself, I might start worrying."
Advocaat is looking to hold a fundraiser in Sun Peaks in the coming weeks, before heading to Switzerland next month.
He'll be practising his tuck - that's how he stands during his runs - and make adjustments based on photographs taken at the Velocity Challenge. And he's also trying to get stronger, both mentally and physically.
Advocaat says the sport is toughest on the legs - "And also the mind."
"It's hard to stay mentally prepared for the next run," he adds. "You stand on one side of the hill for eight hours, and you might only get in two or three runs a day."