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Ski jumps put back to work this weekend

Ski jumping, nordic combined championships in town



It's been more than two years since the ski jump facilities at Whistler Olympic Park have been used for their intended purpose, but as of this past Saturday the ski jumpers were back training at the multi-million dollar facility while preparing for the national championship competitions taking place Saturday, March 31.

There will be a long jump competition at 9 a.m., a normal hill competition at 11 a.m. and a nordic combined race at 1:30 p.m. using the normal hill and surrounding cross-country trails. Admission is free for spectators.

The last time the jumps were used for ski jumping was during the 2010 Winter Games. Several events were held before that including World Cup test events for both ski jumping and nordic combined. At one point, the $30 million jumps were considered a temporary addition to the $122.4 million Whistler Olympic Park facility, but after the Games it was acknowledged that there was nothing to prevent the jumps from remaining as a permanent facility. The Callaghan Winter Sports Club has also obtained funding to build training jumps and host events to build support for the sport locally.

Brent Morrice, the chair of Ski Jumping Canada, said they were excited to return to the facility and were planning to host regular camps and competitions in Whistler in the lead-up to the 2014 Games in Sochi.

"We're hoping to do this annually, especially leading up to the 2014 Olympics," confirmed Morrice. "It's a fantastic facility and the more we can get to use it, the better.

"Obviously the proximity (to the national centre in Calgary) and the expense to get it up and running is a little bit prohibitive, but we're working around that."

Keith Bennett, the president and CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies, said that the future of ski jumping at the Olympic park will be "defined by the sport and their ability to fund the ski jump operation." As far as that goes, he hopes that the inclusion of women into ski jumping at the Olympic level will result in more funding to the sport.

Whistler Sport Legacies gets a share of Games Operating Trust funding to keep Whistler's Olympic venues running, but at the time the agreement was signed the ski jumps were expected to be temporary and were not provided for in the trust.

This Saturday's competitions will cost up to $60,000 to stage, and are being jointly produced by Ski Jumping Canada, Own the Podium and Whistler Sport Legacies. Preparations include everything from shovelling out staircases and in-runs along the side of the course, to grooming the landing area. The wind and technical systems also need to be set up, as well as a video system to measure distances and a computer to record and share scores with spectators.