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Whistler Cup starting April 11

New U14 team relay, Norway's return among 2019 highlights for 27th edition

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The runs are groomed, the international athletes have arrived and plenty of the world's best ski racers aged 12 to 15 are set to go at the 27th edition of the Mackenzie Investments Whistler Cup.

There are a few minor tweaks to this year's event, as the Parade of Nations through Whistler Village will move to Thursday, April 11 at 5 p.m. from its traditional Friday slot to avoid conflict with the World Ski and Snowboard Festival.

From a programming perspective, the U14 athletes will take part in a brand-new event, a thrilling team relay. The men's contest will go on Friday, April 12 while the women's will take place on Saturday, April 13 at Upper Dave Murray.

Chief of race Geoff Gagan is eager to run the heart-pumping event, where teams of six will go head-to-head. Each successive racer will be allowed to drop as soon as his or her predecessor crosses the line.

"They're a little more on the radar since they're getting a little more popular on the World Cup. A lot of ski clubs are doing these kinds of events just because they're fun and inclusive," he said. "They're also crowdpleasers, just fun for people to watch."

The U16 athletes will both race the super-G at Raven on April 11 before the U14s get going the next day.

On April 12, the U16 men's and women's giant slalom will run on Raven and the U14 women's slalom will go at Ptarmigan. On April 13, U16 men's and women's slalom will run on Ptarmigan while the U14 men's giant slalom is set for Raven. The weekend will wrap with the U16s running their team event on Upper Dave Murray, the U14 women's giant slalom set for Raven and the U14 men's slalom going on Ptarmigan.

A full schedule is available online at www.whistlercup.com.

Whistler Cup administrator Christine Cogger said the festival is excited to welcome back the Norwegian team after a year away. Norway won the Whistler Cup in 2015 and 2016, but were removed from their perch by the Swiss, who now have a two-year winning streak of their own.

"They're a really strong contender for the Whistler Cup, so we're really excited to welcome them back," Cogger said. "It's pretty key for us. One of the goals for us is to invite these strong international teams to allow Canadian athletes to experience a really high level of competition without having to go overseas.

"We can create that atmosphere here by inviting some of the bigger, stronger teams to come to the event."

Only one B.C. athlete, Heming Sola of Apex Ski Club, cracked Team Canada. However, nine of the 12 athletes representing Team B.C. hail from the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. John Nicolls, Matthias Shorter, Chase Burns, Sam Fuller and Graham Seltzer will suit up on the men's side, while Emeline Bennett, Jaden Dawson, Sara Stiel and Fiona McInnes are the representatives in the women's event.

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