Since it opened on Dec. 1, the B.C. Development Centre for alpine snowboard racing has shown that its worth its weight in gold, as athletes who are in a position to take advantage of the program are finding their way to the podium at the regional, national and international level.
"Were seeing some positive results already, and a lot of improvement from the athletes," says BCDC coach and founder Steve Legge, who is also the alpine coach for the national team.
"Before this existed, there werent a lot of places for our alpine snowboarders and boardercross racers to go to get coaching, to get experience, to get advice, to get any of the things they need to be competitive in this sport. For the most part they were on their own."
Situated on the Upper Dave Murray run, the BCDC provides athletes with access to a dedicated training course, plus video analysis and on-site coaching with Legge or Greg Salmon from Mondays to Wednesdays for only $35 a day.
National team snowboarders and Whistler residents Darren Chalmers, Ian Hadgkiss and Alexa Loo use the site to train, as do members of the B.C. and Ontario teams, Australian national team boarders, and athletes from Japan and Korea.
Olympic Gold medalist Ross Rebagliati has also been training at the site and has recently tested his legs with moderate success in an international competition.
"Its all levels and abilities, really," says Legge. "Our main goal is to train athletes for the 2010 Olympics thats where our funding comes from."
The BCDC is funded by the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Bid Corporations LegaciesNOW program, the government of B.C., Pacfic Sport, SportMed B.C., and the National Sports Centre. Private sponsors include Bolle, Prior Snowboards, Regency GMC, Showcase Snowboards, and Descente.
If the 2010 Olympic bid is unsuccessful, however, Legge says the program will likely continue.
"In our first year we got enough funding for the first two years, including radios and timers and other equipment, so the interest is out there," says Legge.
While it is relatively easy for halfpipe riders to train, the lack of permanent alpine training facilities makes it more difficult to prepare athletes for international competition.
"Every resort has a halfpipe to train in, but its tough to get racers out. If we wanted to put some athletes in a luge track, wed have to make it possible for kids to come out and try it and for athletes to train," says Legge. "This is kind of the same without a permanent facility for people to come to, youre never going to attract new athletes or train the ones we have."
For next year he plans to find more funding for coaches and support in order to provide BCDC services for free to Canadian athletes.
And its not just for 2010, says Legge "Its a place for riders from anywhere in Canada to better themselves, to get ready for the World Cup circuit with real on-hill training.
"Ive been all over the world this year, and this is the best hill Ive seen for training. Its got steep sections, rollers, flats its longer, too, so the athletes get a workout that will make those World Cup courses feel a lot shorter."
The BCDC program started on Dec. 1, and will run until the Canadian Championships at Big White starting April 2.