By Maëlle Ricker
A few big snowfalls and cold spells have passed through the Sea to Sky corridor, and winter has finally started for Whistler. However, the Canadian Snowboard Team has had plenty of snow time already. World Cup points have been awarded and Olympic selection season is in full swing. Everyone on the team is excited to get down to the serious fun of riding.
The team consists of four disciplines, halfpipe, big air, snowboard cross, and racing. I am a member of two of these teams, halfpipe and snowboard cross, and have been a national team member since the 1996/97 season.
The summer training camps were a huge success. Tom Hutchinson, the halfpipe coach, held a two month long training session for the senior and developing riders on Blackcomb. The snowboard cross team, led this year by a new coach, Rene Brunner of Austria, also had a 10 day camp on Horstman Glacier. The snowboard cross team then went to Chile early for preparations for the World Cup in September.
Greg Salmon, the race coach, took his team to Chile as well for a month of quality time on winter snow before their big season started.
Halfpipe rider Crispin Lipscomb and big air specialist Neil Connelly got extra riding in on top of the summer season by going south to New Zealand. From what I hear the New Zealand halfpipes were great and many other countries were down there riding. Maybe next year .
September was huge for the snowboard cross team. After 10 days of training and attending local races at Valle Nevado, a ski resort one hour east and eighty switchbacks up from Santiago, we drove south for a few days break before the season opening World Cup.
Pichilemu, a little fishing town south-west of Santiago, was the perfect place to get a little surfing done and fill up on questionable seafood. I had no idea giant steamed barnacles were such a delicacy!
We went back to Santiago to pick up some more athletes at the airport before returning to Valle Nevado. Originally there were supposed to be three events, two snowboard crosses and one halfpipe, but the halfpipe was cancelled due to lack of snow. To be more accurate, there was no snow at all in the pipe.
The snowboard cross course held up nicely despite the incredibly warm weather. I managed to win the time trials in the first race but buggered up my knee in the process and had to sit put for the rest of the week.
Tom Velisek of Vernon won the time trials in the first race as well, but Drew Neilson, also from Vernon, took home gold in the finals. Not only did he have reason to celebrate his win in the first race and his fourth place finish in the second race, but also because his wife Amy just gave birth to a baby boy days before the event!