In recent years at the Whistler Cup, Canada had always been more than accommodating as hosts.
After winning five of six overall titles between 2008 and 2013, Canada hadn't been able to pull off the U16 overall title as visitors from Austria, Norway and Switzerland brought it back to Europe.
However, led by Arianne Forget on the women's side and a selection of impressive showings on the men's side, the Canadians finally reclaimed the trophy on April 14.
Head coach Jenni Stielow was thrilled to lead the team of a dozen ski racers from all over the country to the victory.
"It's absolutely fantastic to bring it back for Canada," she said. "The athletes really put their full effort into competition here, which was fantastic. They were all attentive. They were very competitive and they paid attention to small-scale details, which I really think paid off in the long run."
Stielow was proud of the team's gusto from Day 1, as all racers were encouraged to leave nothing on the track. Even if it didn't result in the placements they were hoping for, the effort and the process were enough to topple Norway and every other challenger.
"We just went out and did our best," she said. "Our motto from the very get-go, from the very first team meeting was to go out and do your best, work hard in the gates, and enjoy it."
The United States, meanwhile, claimed the U14 Festival Cup.
Locals excelled in the four-day festival, though none shone brighter than Felix Shorter, who took home the U14 Dave Murray Award winner on Sunday. Shorter's case was strengthened by a third-place finish in the slalom earlier in the day.
Ontario's Madison Donnelly took home the U14 Nancy Greene Award. As for the U16 winners, Forget took home the Nancy Greene Award while Aleksas Valadka won the Dave Murray Award.
Shorter said his goal for the season was to win the award, so it was a relief to pull it off.
"It felt really good. It was a goal from my first day in U14. I wanted to get that award and get my name on the plaque," he said. "I was thinking about it a bit, but then let go of it on the second day because I wanted to perform instead of mess up because I'm thinking about something."
Shorter certainly did perform, winning the giant slalom on April 12 and placing third in the slalom on April 13. As one of just a few locals to win at the Whistler Cup, Shorter appreciates his accomplishment.
"It means a lot because it's on home soil," he said. "On the first run, I had a really good run and I was leading by a second, which was a lot.
"On the second run, I just messed up a couple times but because I was thinking, 'I have a second to play with,' at the bottom of the course, it was really tight and I didn't want to mess up. That was a really key part of the course."
Heading into the slalom on the final day, Shorter was aiming for a podium finish to secure the Dave Murray crown, though he admittedly skied somewhat conservatively on his second run.
"When I crossed the finish line, I was thinking, 'Hopefully that makes it onto the podium,'" he said.
Though Shorter feels the award will give him a boost heading into 2019-20, he acknowledged the cachet that goes along with it will require an adjustment as well.
"It gives me a lot of confidence but it also puts a lot of pressure on me because when I go to my first race, everybody is going to be expecting me to do well," he said.
Canadians, locals shine
Canada claimed the Whistler Cup crown on the backs of numerous strong performances, while Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) skiers also shone on their home mountain.
The U16s kicked off competition on April 11 with the super-G. Norway put two on the podium with Johs Herland taking the victory and Haugen placing third to sandwich Canadian Alexis Barabe in second. Burns was the top local in 11th, while Matthias Shorter was 15th, Nicolls took 21st, Ross was 28th and Fuller wound up 30th.
As for the women, Canada's Arianne Forget was the winner, topping Israel's Noa Szollos and Norway's Emilie Bakkevig. Sara Stiel led the local contingent in 14th with Emeline Bennett (16th), Jaden Dawson (19th) and Fiona McInnes (23rd) all cracking the top 30.
In the April 12 U16 women's giant slalom, Forget dominated the field, holding off Szollos and fellow Canadian Britt Richardson for the win. Whistler Mountain Ski Club representatives suiting up for Team BC were: Stiel (15th); Dawson (20th); Bennett (22nd); and McInnes (30th).
In the men's GS, Norwegians took the top two spots on the podium as Tollef Jostein Haugen bested Hermann Fjeldaville Linberg, while Chile's Manuel Horwitz took third. WMSC athletes in the top 30 were: Chase Burns (12th); Sam Fuller (14th); Adam Usher (20th); John Nicolls (24th); and Duncan Ross (28th).
In U16 competition on April 13, Canada claimed the top two spots in the women's race as Richardson nicked Forget for gold while Bakkevig scored a second bronze. Locals dotted the top 30, including: Stiel (18th); Dawson (19th); Bennett (20th); Isabella Cross (21st); Holly Clarke (23rd); Sierra Haziza (26th); Laura Keogh (27th); and Amanda Miller (29th).
In the men's contest, Hungary's Tamas Trunk topped Haugen and American Nick Kirwood for gold. Matthias Shorter was the top local, taking eighth, while Hayden Harley (14th), Adam Usher (15th), Benjamin Neeves (18th), Kian Gottfried (23rd), and Logan Sadan (27th) made the top 30.
The U14s, meanwhile, kicked off their action on April 12, with Madison Donnelly of Ontario 2 earning the women's slalom victory over New Zealand's Mikayla Smyth and Quebec's Noémie Longchamps. Two locals on Team BC, Alexa Brownlie and Erin Husken, cracked the top 10 in sixth and ninth, respectively.
In the men's giant slalom on April 13, Shorter bested New Zealand's Alec Jackson and Japan's Reon Satoh for the top spot. Alec Waldrum (13th) and Dylan Boyd (26th) also hit the top 30.
In the men's slalom on April 14, in which Shorter was third, American Daniel Ferucci earned the win while Japan's Neo Kamada was second. Local Milan Novak took 10th while Alec Waldrum took 28th.
As for the women's giant slalom, New Zealand's Mikayla Smith topped American Ava Schweiger and WMSC's Brownlie. Other locals in the top 30 were: Husken (sixth); Isabelle Bexton (12th); and Ella Kaufmann (22nd).
Full results are online at www.whistlercup.com.