Canada boasts one of the most successful ski cross teams in the world, with both the men's and women's teams sweeping podiums during the World Cup season last year. Local skier Ashleigh McIvor punctuated that fact with her win at ski cross's Olympic debut at Cypress during the 2010 Games. Chris DelBosco came close to adding a second podium, but crashed when he tried to upgrade a guaranteed bronze medal for a gold.
Heading into the 2010-2011 season, most of the 13-member team is still together with two new faces drawn from the national development program - Whistler skiers Stanislas Rey and Marielle Thompson. There is one notable skier missing on the list, with Stanley Hayer, 37, not in the lineup this year.
Dave Ellis, director of Canada Ski Cross (CSX) said this is an important year for the team.
"This season is important as we refocus on a new four-year plan and preparing athletes for certain benchmarks on the way to 2014," he said. "We've achieved a lot of success in a short time and our mission is to continue the development of this relatively young program."
Canada was one of the first countries in the world to create and support a national sports organization for ski cross, providing the group with funding, coaching, and other forms of support. It helped that Canada was already a strong contender in the sport before we won the bid to host the Games or ski cross was included in the Olympic program.
Although other nations are catching up, Canada has one of the deepest teams as well as one of the fastest with most of the veteran team members on the podium at one point in the last few winters. The team's coaches, Eric Archer and technical coach Brent Kehl are also returning to the team, which is now under the arm of Alpine Canada Alpin, the national body for ski racing where many of the athletes learned to go fast.
"Our team has a lot of talent with champions at all levels of the sport, including an Olympic champion," said Ellis. "We've also got some younger skiers that are hungry to push for their opportunity to succeed at the top levels of our sport."
The team has been busy in the off-season, dryland training in Whistler and spending some time on the snow in Argentina and Switzerland. Their season starts with a double-header in Italy on Dec. 18-19, with competitions resuming in the new year in Austria.
The team has a packed calendar between the World Cup, World Championships in Deer Valley in February, the Winter X Games and various Nor-Am competitions around Canada and the U.S.
The Whistler content is high. On the men's team, Davey Barr and Stanislas Rey call Whistler home, while the area is also home base for Chris DelBosco and Brian Bennett. Other team members include Brady Leman of Calgary and Ontario skiers Dave Duncan and Nick Zoricic. The women's team includes Whistler's Julia Murray, Ashleigh McIvor and Marielle Thompson, as well as Squamish's Aleisha Cline. Other members include Calgary's Danielle Poleschuk and Kelowna's Kelsey Serwa.