The 19th annual Whistler Cup international juvenile ski races are getting underway on Friday, and as always the Whistler Mountain Ski Club will be well-represented by its K1 (aged 11 and 12) and K2 (age 13 and 14) skiers.
Athletes from the club will be skiing with Team Canada, with Team B.C. and with the club program, taking on athletes from 24 different nations - including alpine powerhouses Austria, France, Italy and the U.S.
Last week, following the K2 nationals, Team Canada was announced. Three Whistler Mountain K2 skiers were named to the national team, Kelly Steeves and Rachel Vander Veen for the girls, and Marc Leroux for the boys. K2 skiers on Team BC 1 include Stefanie Fleckenstein and Riley Seger, while Team BC 2 will include Mikayla Martin.
The top K2 racers with the national team have been taking part in the IRIS "Vision to the TOP" ski camp from April 4 to 7, giving up-and-coming skiers an opportunity to train with national level coaches.
"It will be one of the first times these athletes have had the chance to represent their country in an international competition," said Jean-Francois Rapatel, national director of Alpine Canada Alpin. "It's also a good opportunity for coaches to meet and work alongside their peers from across Canada."
The training week was sponsored by IRIS, Canada's largest chain of eye care providers.
Athletes are seeded according to what team they're skiing for and how their country, provincial team, etc. have ranked them, and start order is determined by a bib draw. As a result, the top Canadian male and female will be drawing alongside the top male and female from other national teams. The draw will be repeated until all of the national team athletes have their start numbers, then the process will continue with provincial teams. WMSC club athletes will go last, seeded according to a list provided by the club.
With roughly 400 athletes taking part, there could be over 100 racers in some categories.
The Whistler Cup was created to give young Canadian racers an opportunity to compete against the top skiers from other nations and gauge their skills. It's also an opportunity to make friends and show sportsmanship. While athletes go head-to-head during the day, they regularly trade their gear with members of other teams and celebrate together at social events.
If past history is any indication, then the Whistler Cup is succeeding. Some of the past Canadian athletes to win the award for top Canadian include national team racers Erik Guay, Robbie Dixon and Genevieve Simard.
Team Canada's prospects have also improved. Canada was the top team in 2010 and 2009 and is the defending champion for the 2011 Whistler Cup.
The racing gets underway on Friday, April 8 with the K1 Kombi and K2 super G, followed by the K1/K2 women's giant slalom and K1/K2 men's slalom on Saturday and the K1/K2 women's slalom and K1/K2 men's giant slalom on Sunday. The super G and giant slalom races take place on Raven/Ptarmigan, and the slalom and kombi on the Upper Dave Murray Downhill. Speed training and racing gets underway at 10 a.m. each day.