SAINT-JEROME, Que. — During a two-month European ski trip in 1996, one of Bertrand Charest’s ski students built an igloo out of snow outside the chalet in order to escape from him, she told his sex assault trial Tuesday.
The witness said Charest took her virginity earlier on that trip to France, in his bedroom. She was 15.
“He came and got me in my room and I remember sitting on his bed when he started kissing me,” she told the court. “I don’t remember how my underwear came off. It was painful.”
Charest, 51, is on trial on 57 charges, including sexual assault and breach of trust, in relation to 12 alleged victims between the ages of 12 and 19.
During the 1996 trip, the then-teenager would often run away from the chalet and sometimes hide in the woods to escape him.
“I would ask my friend to come sleep with me in the igloo,” she said.
The witness told the court Charest would refuse to coach her if she rejected his sexual advances when she was his ski student.
“I would have liked to have had the courage to push him away but I wasn’t able to,” said the woman, who was the 10th alleged victim to take the stand at the trial.
“When I said no (to sex), he stopped coaching me. When I said yes, he did.”
She described herself as a teenager with Olympic aspirations and said being ignored by a coach during her formative years was potentially devastating.
The witness stood in front of the judge with her view of Charest masked by a white curtain so she wouldn’t have to see him.
Tuesday’s witness said Charest began abusing her when she was 12.
During a training camp in 1993, Charest slipped his hand between her thighs when she was walking up the stairs, she said, while she testified he also touched her buttocks during a group basketball game when no one was looking.
The advances continued throughout 1996 and into 1997, she said, adding Charest invited her over to his house several times for sex during that period.
In Austria in early 1997, Charest brought her to the bathroom of a hotel, locked the door and had sex with her while she was sitting on a sink, she testified.
During her morning testimony she said they went back to that hotel several times during the trip.
However, during cross-examination, she clarified she only fully remembered having sex in that bathroom on just one occasion.
She added Charest never used condoms during any of their sexual encounters.
The witness said it was only in the summer of 1997 she finally had the courage to tell him to stop.
She was alone with him at the Toronto airport and they had missed a connecting flight to New Zealand, she said.
“He rented a single room with one bed,” she testified.
She said that when he tried to be intimate with her, she left the room and spent part of the night sleeping in the bathtub.
“In Toronto, when you said no, was that the last time?” Crown attorney Nathalie Tremblay asked.
“Yes,” she responded. “I was free.”
During the cross-examination, defence lawyer Antonio Cabral asked her if there was anything positive about her years as a student under Charest.
“It was hell,” she said.
He then showed her a signed, mounted photo of herself skiing in Italy when she was 15, toward the end of her first full year with Charest as her coach.
The photo is signed, “To my coach and accomplice, thank you for everything.” Included in the signature are three marks that symbolize kisses.
“How do you send a gift to someone who made you suffer through hell?” he asked her.
“I wanted to continue my career,” she replied, “to hide what was happening.”
While Charest worked with Alpine Canada’s women’s development team between 1996 and 1998, some of the charges involving Tuesday’s witness and other alleged victims are related to alleged incidents that preceded his spell with the national organization.