More than 300 youths representing 20 nations at annual event
Over the past 11 years, the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup has given juvenile ski racers from dozens of countries an opportunity to test themselves against the top skiers from around the world.
Athletes and coaches are now counting down to the 12 th annual event, as the Whistler Mountain Ski Club prepares to host approximately 240 skiers from across Canada and another 100 skiers from up to 20 other nations. The Canadian athletes will represent their provinces, although the top racers from provincial and national championships will form Team Canada.
For the WMSC, the experience is more valuable than the results, although the club and athletes are always excited when they finish well.
"It has a big impact on these kids when they see they can race with anybody," said Nigel Cooper, program director for the WMSC. "Not just the top kids, but also the kids in the middle who are just looking to surprise themselves.
"We dont want to put a lot of pressure on them, especially kids aged 11 and 12 because they all have different peak goals going into a season. Some of them want to peak at the provincials or nationals, and others just want to do better than they have in other years.
"I do think they are looking forward to this event, because its ours and they want to do well at home with their families and friends and teammates around, and our skiers surprise us every year. But this is more than a race for us, its our event and we want the event to go well more than anything.
"In a way thats not fair because the kids have so much going on that week they cant concentrate on the racing as much as they would like to, but podium finishes arent a priority for us. Good results are just a nice bonus."
The Whistler Cup experience has paid off for many of the athletes. Olympic and World Cup stars like Ivica and Janica Kostelic of Croatia, Austrians Nicole Hosp and Benjamin Raich, Italys Karen Putzer, and more have all competed in the Whistler Cup.
Many of Canadas own World Cup stars, including Britt Janyk, Michael Janyk, Genevieve Simard, Allison Forsyth, Emily Brydon, Erik Guay, Julien Cousineau, Jean-Philippe Roy and Christina Risler are Whistler Cup veterans.
Other Whistler Cup veterans have taken different paths, such as Ben Thornhill who helped to lead the Utah Utes first division ski team to a national championship, and Ashleigh McIvor who is one of the top skier cross racers in the world.