For kids with dreams of racing in the Olympics, a stepping-stone for the past 20 years has been the Rio Tinto Alcan Whistler Cup, taking place this weekend, April 6 to 8. The event is open to kids aged 11 to 14, with more than 360 kids taking part in three different disciplines.
It takes 300 volunteers to make it all possible, from course workers to translators helping teams from 21 nations feel at home.
There are a few changes this season. One was to make the K1 category (ages 11 and 12) into a festival rather than an FIS-sanctioned event, which opens the race to every club internationally. Athletes do not have to go through their provincial or national sports federations to take part.
The teams started to arrive early this week and the first on-mountain speed training took place Thursday, April 5.
The K1 skiers started racing on Friday with a Kombi event on the Dave Murray. On Saturday, the K1 boys raced slalom on the Dave Murray and the girl's race giant slalom was on Ptarmigan. On Sunday the athletes switch, with the women racing slalom and the men giant slalom.
The K2 racers skied the super G on Friday on the Ptarmigan run. On Saturday, the K2 women raced giant slalom and the men raced slalom on Dave Murray.
The next day the athletes switched so the men raced giant slalom and the women raced slalom.
On Friday night there was an athletes parade and opening ceremonies at Village Square. There was an awards dinner on Saturday night for all of the athletes, and an overall awards ceremony planned for Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m. At the final awards the top Canadian skiers over the weekend will be recognized, with the top male winning the Dave Murray Award and the top female the Nancy Greene Award.
One of the highlights this year is the participation of Canadian World Cup athletes, many of whom got their international start at the Whistler Cup. Athletes in attendance include Robbie Dixon, Manuel Osborne-Paradis, Mike Janyk and Erin Mielzynski. Slovenia's Tina Maze, who also participated in the Whistler Cup as a juvenile, will also be on hand.
Some facts about the Whistler Cup:
• 176 Whistler Cup alumni have gone onto race on the World Cup. Some of the most prestigious alumni include Americans Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, Sweden's Anja Paerson and Austria's Benjamin Raich.
• 96 per cent of members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team raced Whistler Cup.
• 70 per cent of members of the Canadian Ski Cross Team raced Whistler Cup.
• Over 45 different countries have participated in the past 20 years. In total 4,378 athletes have taken part.
The Whistler Mountain Ski Club will be well represented with athletes on Team Canada, Team B.C. and at the club level.
Team Canada will include 18 athletes this year, all of who were invited to a special camp hosted last weekend by the national ski team coaches. Athletes from the Whistler Mountain Ski Club include Cameron Alexander, James Crawford, Rily Seger, Stefanie Fleckenstein and Mikayla Martin. They'll get to race against the top athletes from nations like Norway with the earlier start times.
WMSC athletes racing for Team B.C. include Esme McTavish, Max Peiffer, Carson Llewellyn and Alex Gershon. Several other athletes are on the reserve list.