Members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team headed to South America a few weeks ago to get in some early on-snow training for the coming season, and to get at least one competition under the athletes' belts as the Olympic qualification period kicks into high gear.
The event was a South America Cup event, a Continental Cup-level competition at Cerro Castor, Ushuaia.
In the opening giant slalom race, Canada's Philip Brown took the win with a combined time of 1:41.65, just 0.15 seconds ahead of Philipp Schoerghofer of Austria. Samu Torsti of Finland was just eight one-hundredths back of second place to win the bronze.
Brown was happy to get the result, but the Nor-Am Cup giant slalom champion isn't taking anything for granted.
"I managed to put together two solid runs, walking away with the victory," he said. "It made for a pretty special birthday gift for myself. This is a good starting point for me going into the season but there is still a lot of work to be done moving forward. I have some lofty goals, including qualifying for the Olympics, and I need to stay focused if I want to achieve them."
Other Canadians also had good races, with Erik Read placing seventh, Trevor Philp 13th, Dustin Cook 17th and Whistler's Mike Janyk 19th. There were over 60 racers in the event.
None of the Canadian women took part in the race. The podium in the women's event was all Italian, with Francesca Marsaglia first, Federica Brignone second and Lisa Magdalena Agerer third.
The Canadian men were blocked off the podium in the second GS with Garbriel Rivas of France taking the win, followed by Austrians Romed Baumann and Philipp Schoerghofer in second and third. It was a much closer race with just 0.18 seconds separating the top three, and Canada's Philip Brown in fourth by 0.13 seconds. Erik Read made the top 10 again in ninth place. None of the other Canadians completed two runs.
In the women's race, Nadia Fanchini and Lisa Magdalena Agerer of Italy were first and second, followed by Noelle Barahona of Chile.
Canadians had a stronger showing in the slalom. Julien Cousineau won the men's event with a two-run time of 1:33.69, 0.14 seconds ahead of Francois Place of France and 0.42 seconds ahead of Mitja Valencic of Slovenia. Canada's Philip Brown was fourth, Sasha Zaitsoff and Mike Janyk tied for fifth and Erik Read was seventh.
In the women's slalom it was Chiara Costazza and Federica Brignone of Italy in first and second, followed by Maria Belen Simari Birkner of Argentina.
The event comes at the end of a successful summer training session where several skiers, including Whistler brothers Morgan and Conrad Pridy stood out from the crowd. One of the events was a now-traditional Norway vs. Canada Condor Cup race in Portillo Chile last week.
"The Pridy brothers are going in the right direction, even thought there's still a lot of work to do," said men's head coach Martin Rufener. "Morgan and Conrad are in good shape and they're doing well here in training. There's a clear goal for them to make the jump and get in the points in World Cup races. They can build their confidence at each camp and then take that into race situations."
Morgan Pridy won the Condor Cup mock downhill, followed by Aleksander Kilde of Norway. Conrad Pridy was third.
"I'm just really enjoying my time training with our speed team," said Morgan Pridy. "It's been awesome to ski with the Norwegians as well. It's not every day you get to train the same course as the world's best and then also have the opportunity to talk shop with them between runs. It's nice to be fast for our mock race... but it's very early in (the off season) and there is lots of work still to be done."
Morgan Pridy said his goal for the coming World Cup season was to qualify for the World Cup finals in two disciplines. To be in the finals you need to finish in the top 25 — although you can also be selected if a higher-ranked skier is injured and unable to compete.
Other southern hemisphere events on the calendar include slalom and giant slalom FIS races at El Colarado, Chile, next weekend, and South America Cup speed events (downhill, super G and super combined) at Nevados de Chilian the following week.