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Ski Cross switched to Alpine Canada program



Last week The Globe and Mail reported the rumour that Canada Ski Cross was being adopted by Alpine Canada, and this week it became official.

Alpine Canada confirmed on Monday that the ski cross team would be moving under its umbrella, which they said would result in increased support for the athletes.

The transition to Alpine Canada from the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association was a logical move for ski cross. One of the biggest mysteries on the slopes was the decision by the International Skiing Federation (FIS) to place ski cross under the freestyle banner more than eight years ago, when the sport has always had more in common with alpine and the vast majority of athletes come from ski racing.

The sports are also connected at the grass roots level. For example, the Whistler Mountain Ski Club runs the local and provincial ski cross programs, providing a natural progression for racers coming out of the K2 and J1 programs.

And while freestyle has benefited from the association through Nations Cup standings, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association has not officially adopted the program in any way, shape or form. Ski halfpipe, which is being considered for the 2014 Olympics, is a different story and will be managed by the national freestyle association if it's approved - a logical choice given that many of the top halfpipe athletes come from the sport of freestyle.

Caught in between disciplines, the Canadian ski cross program was managed separately from the start as Canada Ski Cross, with its own managers, sponsors, coaches, etc. It was funded almost entirely through the Own The Podium program, given that there was not enough time between the 2006 International Olympic Committee congress's decision to add ski cross to the Olympics and the 2010 Games to create a self-supporting program.

Canada has also been something of a superpower in the sport. Whistler's Ashleigh McIvor is both the Olympic and world champion. Five Canadian women and four Canadian men were on the World Cup podium last year. Both the Canadian men and women's teams have swept World Cup podiums in the past, something no other nation has accomplished.

Joining Alpine Canada will be a big step for the team. The ski cross team will benefit from Alpine Canada's sponsors and resources as well as its administrative and PR teams. Alpine Canada will benefit by having something new and exciting to attract sponsors and by working from the grass roots level to develop high performance athletes for both sports.

"I'm really excited about the direction that alpine will take us in," said Ashleigh McIvor. "The skill set that athletes develop training as alpine racers is essential in producing strong ski cross competitors, and it will be great to utilize the resources of the established, well-oiled machine that the alpine organization has become."

McIvor was a FIS-level alpine racer before joining the sport of ski cross, as were teammates Julia Murray, Kelsey Serwa and Danielle Poleschuk. The men's team is also dominated by ex-ski racers.

Max Gartner, chief athletics officer for Alpine Canada, also welcomed the sport and pledged to support it fully going forward.

"We believe this partnership makes the most sense for the athletes," he said. "That integrating ski cross and alpine will enable the smoothest transitions for athletes who are possibly making the switch. Ultimately, it is aimed at maximizing our ability to create champions in each respective discipline."

For the time being ski cross continues to sit in the freestyle column at FIS, and Canadian athletes will help the national freestyle team compete for its sixth consecutive Nations Cup title in the 2010-2011 season.