Hall of Famer
Alain Masson’s approach as a gracious, humble and dedicated ski racing coach, program director and ski technician in cross country for over 28 years was not only deeply respected in the national and international ski community but also produced superb performances for many skiers from the Yukon.
Alain’s coaching career in cross-country skiing started in the Yukon in 1995 but it was in Laval, Quebec in his youth – where ski trails were hard to come by – where he discovered an internal desire and passion to compete at the highest level in sport, regardless of the available facilities and resources.
Coming late to skiing (and cycling) in his later teen years after spending most of his youth in many team sports, Alain learned quickly that passion, worth ethic, positive attitude and self-confidence were attributes that would not only excel his own career but were also ingredients to a successful coaching approach, that he could use to pass on to the many o this skiers.
“As a youth I never saw myself as an exceptional athlete, I was average in everything but my work capacity was exceptional as well as the amount of energy I had.”
Alain started as an Olympian in the Summer Games (Los Angeles 1984) in men’s road cycling and then as a two-time Winter Olympian (Calgary 1988 and Albertville 1992) in cross country skiing and he would eventually move into a coaching role in Whitehorse.
Over this time, Alain worked with many skiers who would qualify for the national team, although he is quick to mention that the Yukon had a strong tradition of quality programs and successful athletes long before he arrived. “I continued the tradition more than created it,” he said, referring to successful Yukon programs in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. “What I was able to bring was my experiences as an athlete and in high performance sport to steer and mentor the athletes in the right direction.”
Alain’s wife, Lucy Steele Masson, grew up in Whitehorse. The two met on the national team and later married and moved to Lucy’s hometown in the spring of 1992 and raised a family (two boys: Sasha and Felix). Lucy competed in the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, France.
Having served as a full-time wax technician for many years with the national ski team, including five Olympics and many world championships, Alain worked with some of the greatest ski racers in Canada, such as Beckie Scott, Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Sara Renner, and Chandra Crawford. These skills and knowledge acquired at the highest level of the sport would also be utilized later with his athletes in the Yukon.
When he moved back to the Yukon program, Alain was able to transfer some of the winning knowledge and experiences gained with the national team. The reputation of the Yukon cross country skiers at the time was that of a “gritty” team of northerners who believed that commitment to hard work and a love of sport can take you to whatever heights they choose.
During his time as the top coach for the Yukon, Alain attended annual national championships and six Canada Winter Games, as well as coaching at annual Canada Cup races and other regional championship events. He also helped develop a local racing circuit in and around Yukon for athletes to develop their skills near home and every two years he would take skiers to the Arctic Winter Games in the circumpolar region ranging from Nuuk Greenland, North West Territories, Yukon, Northern Alberta, and Alaska.
The Yukon was smaller than other national divisions in terms of team size, but had an extraordinary success rate of delivering athletes to national and international success, which continues today. Since 2000, the Yukon team has arrived at each national championships with an average of 15 or fewer athletes compared to the national average of 30 to 60 athletes per team while continuing to place in the top 5. In 2018, at the Pyeongchang Olympics, three of the 11 Canadian team members were from the Yukon.
Alain Masson’s impressive career as a coach in the Yukon ended in the spring of 2023, when he pass the reigns over to one of his former skiers, Graham Nishikawa, who took over his position as head coach.
“I’m not big on awards but I’m happy we got the results and feel very privileged to have had these opportunities; not everyone has the chance to be involved in high performance sport for work both at the national level and territorial level. It was important for me to give back and help with the kids who were interested in taking part in cross skiing in the Yukon.”
- Sport Yukon Hall of Fame 2013 (Coaching)
- Commemorative Diamond Jubilee medals Award 2012 (Coaching)
- Canadian Cross Country Team (1984-1992): 1988 Calgary Olympics, 1992 Albertville Olympics
- Canadian Road Cycling Team (1979-1984) 1984 Los Angeles Olympics
- Canadian Level 3 Coach NCCP, since 1992
- Level 3 Official with Nordiq Canada, since 1995
- Board of Directors of Sport Yukon, since 2005
- Yukon Sport and Recreation Branches High Performance Selection Committee, since 2008
- Nordiq Canada High Performance Committee member, since 2012
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