As the last World Cup event for competitors to qualify for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, this years Whistler World Cup snowboard events are attracting a lot more interest than usual.
Organizers are expecting about 200 athletes from more than 25 countries to take part as the boarders try to earn quota spots for their countries, and secure their own place on their respective national teams.
The events are part of the larger Snowscene festival, which will run from Thursday, Dec. 8 to Sunday, Dec. 11. Two snowboardcross events and one halfpipe event are up for grabs.
Whistler has hosted World Cup snowboarding events every year for the past decade, except for last season when the resort hosted the 2005 FIS Snowboard World Championships in January.
A home event is good news for the national team, which has always posted strong results on Canadian soil. In the World Championships, Canadian athletes netted four medals, while a dozen athletes qualified for Sport Canada funding with top-12 finishes.
"This World Cup stop will be the final qualifying event for Canadian athletes to name our halfpipe and snowboardcross teams for (the Olympics), so its a crucial one and were sure to see some intense competition," said Tom McIllfaterick, CEO of the Canadian Snowboard Federation.
In the snowboardcross, Canada will be represented by Jasey-Jay Anderson, Drew Neilson, Tom Velisek, Rob Fagan and Francois Boivin on the mens side, and Whistler riders Maëlle Ricker, Dominique Vallée and Dominique Maltais and Erin Simmons on the womens side. Candice Drouin may be a late addition.
In halfpipe, nearly all riders for the mens team call Whistler home, including Justin Lamoureux, Crispin Lipscomb, Dan Raymond and Mike Michalchuk. Ontarios Brad Martin and Hugo Lemay are also in the mix, as well as members of the development team.
The womens halfpie team is led by Whistlers Mercedes Nicoll, and includes Sarah Conrad, Maélle Ricker and Dominique Vallée.
Details are still being finalized, but SnowScene will also include parties and attractions in Whistler Village.
For more information visit www.snowscene.ca.