By Andrew Mitchell and Adam Daff
Theyve never been held in Whistler before, but theres an unmistakable feeling among organizers that the 2005 FIS Snowboard Championships are finally coming home.
Whistler has always been one of snowboardings hot spots, a place where the top pros live and ride, pushing the limits of the sport. Even today the resort ranks among the top riding locales in North America because of its terrain parks, the terrain, and the extensive backcountry.
Ross Rebagliati, the first Olympic snowboard gold medallist calls Whistler home, as do more than half of the current members of the national freestyle team.
Whistler has hosted snowboard World Cup events for almost a decade now, but the FIS Snowboard World Championships, held every two years, will feature almost twice as many athletes and officials, another 15 nations, and unprecedented global media coverage.
For athletes, the world championships present an opportunity to qualify for the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, as well as experience competing against the top riders from around the world.
For organizers at IMG World, Whistler Events Bureau and the Canadian Snowboard Federation, putting together the eight-day event has been almost a full-time job for over two and a half years. It will be the biggest and most expensive event held in Whistler to date.
The world championships also come at a time of transition for the Canadian Snowboard Federation. With snowboardcross debuting as an Olympic event in 2006, Vancouver hosting the Olympics in 2010, and other nations pouring resources into their national programs, the CSF has had to get organized and funded in a short amount of time a challenge for a sport that is comparatively still in its infancy.
Canada boasts some of the top riders in the world, including the overall World Cup champion for the past four years, and medal contenders in the alpine, halfpipe, snowboardcross and big air disciplines. Maintaining the status quo will be tough with other countries continuing to improve, but the CSF is committed to go even further and create medal contenders for every event by 2010.
The journey has already started. There have been several recent personnel changes at the CSF, and a head office move from Calgary to Vancouver. New sponsors have also come on board with long-term commitments to the team, significantly increasing the budget for the national program.
The FIS Snowboard World Championships, which take place from Jan. 15 to 23, will mark the start of another chapter for snowboarding in Canada. Were still in the early pages of that book, but the plot is just getting interesting.