The Olympic season began in earnest for members of Canada's alpine ski teams last week, with the men's team training on the snow at Coronet Peak, near Queenstown, New Zealand.
Whistler's Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who won the first World Cup downhill race of his career in Kvitfjell, Norway last season is one of the 16 ski racers at the high-intensity camp.
"Obviously everyone knows what's at stake this year with the Olympics in Whistler. And this is the beginning of the process," said the 24-year-old Osborne-Paradis, a 2006 Olympian who has six career World Cup podium results. "I have actually never been to New Zealand and so I am looking forward to getting there and getting back on the snow."
Men's team head coach Paul Kristofic said both the speed team (downhill and super G) and the technical ski racers (giant slalom and slalom) will be training in New Zealand.
"During this training camp we will do a lot of volume and focus on technical adjustments," said Kristofic. "We do quite a lot of free skiing and drills at the beginning. This gives the racer a chance to adapt their bodies to firing the skiing muscles and getting the feeling back in their skiing after a long break off snow.
"We definitely ease the athletes into the skiing program to avoid any injury as the body is being stressed in a different way than at the gym. Once the racers have adapted, we turn up the volume and get the bulk of the work done," he added.
Kristofic said Coronet Peak offers an excellent training area, with great snowmaking and a relatively low altitude, as the skiers prepare for the World Cup season and the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
"We get excellent quality snow. The high volume of runs at a relatively low altitude allows for physical recovery to be easily managed. There are also a variety of runs used that vary in difficulty," Kristofic said.
As for the ladies' team, they will have their first on-snow camp of the season in New Zealand this month. Canada will also have several members of the ladies' team taking part in the New Zealand Winter Games, which are scheduled from Aug. 24 to 30.
The World Cup alpine ski racing season is scheduled to begin in late October with giant slalom races in Sölden, Austria. The men's team opens the World Cup speed season with a super-G and downhill at the Bombardier Lake Louise Winterstart in Lake Louise, Nov. 28 and Nov. 29.
The alpine events of the Olympic Winter Games take place in Whistler beginning with the men's downhill on Feb. 13.
Aerialists hitting the water
One of the world's most exciting summer ski events is set to take place Aug. 8 in Lac Beauport, Quebec at the fifth edition of the Acrobatx Mondial.
Fifty aerialists from around the world, including all the members of the Canadian National Freestyle Aerial Team, will compete head-to-head with their best jumps on the water ramps at the Centre National d'Entraînement Acrobatique Yves Laroche. Other countries represented at the event include China, Japan, the U.S. and Slovenia.
"This year will have the best field of the five years we've done this," said event president and National Aerials Coach Nicolas Fontaine. "It will be hard to predict the winner. We have the World Champion, the World Cup Champion and the 2006 Olympic Champion all competing."
Fontaine said last year's winners Amber Peterson of Canada and American Ryan St. Onge might have to up the ante this summer as they compete against the likes of 2007 and 2009 World Champion Nina Li (China) and Canadian favorites Steve Omischl and Warren Shouldice.
The summer training season is long and challenging for aerialists. The Accrobatx Mondial is one way Canadian coaches help their athletes maintain their edge, compare themselves to other athletes and gauge where they're at in their training. It also provides junior and development team athletes a rare opportunity to compete with the best in the world.
Since there are no limits on the degree of difficulty in the jumps, unlike on-snow competitions, it also provides athletes with an opportunity to push their limits.
Newly promoted Canadian World Cup team member Sabrina Guerin said that's exactly what she'll be doing at the competition.
"It's really important for me because it's a chance for me to try a new jump and see how it would score," said Guerin, referring to the fact that a panel of international World Cup judges will be the arbiters of the event.
Fontaine said some athletes may even perform quadruple somersaults - something never done in a World Cup competition.