By Mary Clayton, Revelstoke Ski Club
One of the highlights of the current season for the Revelstoke Ski Club is acquiring Gregor Družina as our FIS coach, responsible for the development of our top racers.
FIS stands for Fédération Internationale de Ski, which is the governing body for international skiing events. When our young athletes move up to FIS races, they’re hitting the big leagues. Their results are tabulated on the same scale as the best skiers in the world. It’s heady stuff.
Coach Družina is no stranger to the big leagues. As head coach of the B.C. women’s team for six years, he helped groom some of the best female skiers in the country.
Družina is from Maribor, Slovenia, a city famous for hosting World Cup GS and slalom races for more than 50 years. Slovenia is a mountainous country, famed in the ski racing world for producing Tina Maze, the current world champion in Super G and the winner of 23 World Cup races.
“Ski racing is huge in Slovenia, it’s in our culture,” he says. “There’s lots of government support for good athletes and the best racers are national heroes.”
As you would expect, Coach Družina grew up ski racing. “I began at age 6 and trained full time until I was 17,” he says. He left racing to pursue education in ski instruction and coaching, and acquiring degrees in economics and management from the University of Maribor.
“When I finished university, I worked in marketing for a while but found office work wasn’t the best fit so I decided to go travelling with my coaching skills,” he said.
After a coaching stint in New Zealand he moved to a position in Boise, Idaho, before catching the attention of BC Alpine.
He was hired by BC Alpine as the head development coach for the men’s and women’s provincial teams. He then became the head coach of the women’s team, a position he held for four years.
“Once I got to Canada, I fell in love with B.C.,” he said. “But after six years with the provincial team I wanted to try other things in life.” And that’s where Revelstoke Ski Club’s head coach Ned Lazarevic comes in.
“I always liked Revelstoke, though I hadn’t spent any time here, and I knew Ned,” Družina explains. “Ned knew I was available and he’s a good negotiator. He’s pretty insistent.”
Družina had long recognized the potential of Revelstoke Mountain Resort as a training ground, and knew he could work well with the head coach. “Ned is a good organizer and he has a passion for the sport,” he explained. “And a mountain like this is a huge opportunity for a club. With the diversity of terrain we have here, this is an amazing place to learn how to ski. In so many other racing clubs, all the kids do is training, training all the time. Here we train and we have this amazing free skiing. This makes it easy to develop a love for the sport.”
Coach Druzina also speaks highly of the resort management. “Our relationship is amazing compared to many resorts I’ve worked or raced at. They’re very supportive and cooperative.”
Although he’s been at the centre of a very exciting lifestyle, coaching top athletes and travelling year-round for races and training, Coach Druzina is looking forward to staying in one place for a while.
“I like this community,” he said. “It’s a slower pace than I’m used to but it’s very friendly, and I like that I see many older people skiing, so you know that sport is in the culture.”