They were supposed to be in Mammoth, California, enjoying what are usually some of the best early season conditions in North America. When the snow never materialized the Canadian Snowboard Federation decided to move the camp to Whistler in preparation for the Dec. 8-11 World Cup competitions.
There isn’t a full halfpipe to train on just yet, but members are using the small pipe on Whistler and the terrain parks on both mountains to prepare for the season. Apart from keeping local physiotherapists busy, some of the athletes used the opportunity to fit in some extra training on the trampoline.
The team is confident, but some of the riders admit to feeling the added pressure of the Olympic Games on top of the regular World Cup season. The Whistler World Cup will determine once and for all who goes to Torino, and they all want to go.
"We’re doing everything we can," said Dominique Vallée.
"It would be nice to have a full halfpipe to train in, but there isn’t a halfpipe in the whole world right now.
"It’s usually our plan to spend about three weeks in the pipe before the World Cup, but now we’re hearing that we’ll only have a couple of regular training games before the official training starts. At least all the countries are in the same boat, nobody is riding pipe right now."
Vallée, 24, competes in both halfpipe and snowboardcross disciplines. She has already met the qualifying criteria for halfpipe, and will need a strong finish in the snowboardcross to have a chance of representing Canada in both sports at the Olympics.
She had a strong 2004-05 season, and came into this summer ranked 15 th in the world in halfpipe. She is still ranked 15 th after three contests, finishing 12 th and 10 th in the opening events at Valle Nevado, Chile.
She finished last season ranked 37 th in snowboardcross, and currently sits in 21 st .
"It’s a bit of a sketchy situation for me, I’ve a lot on the line in the snowboardcross next week," she said. "I feel ready, everybody is training really well, and I know I have to bring my best game."
For Hugo Lemay, 22, the Whistler World Cup events will also be important. Lemay is currently battling for one of likely four spots on a talented men’s halfpipe team, and three of those spots are spoken for.
The dream almost ended early when he hurt his knee training in August, but he says he is feeling good.