Some of the best skiers in the world today were 11 years old once, and many of them once made the trip to Whistler to compete in the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup.
On the Canadian team alone, 30 of 32 active members are Whistler Cup vets, including Allison Forsyth, Britt Janyk, Michael Janyk, Erik Guay, Genevieve Simard and Emily Brydon.
International alumni of the Whistler Cup include Benjamin Raich, Tina Maze, Sarah Schleper, Karen Putzer, Anja Paerson and Nicole Hosp, to name just a few.
This is the 13 th year that the Whistler Mountain Ski Club has hosted the international juvenile ski race. Last year almost 350 juvenile athletes, representing 15 countries, took part and organizers are expecting similar numbers and 17 nations for this years races, which run from April 1 to 3.
Its been a challenging event to organize this year with snow conditions forcing the racing venues to be relocated four times. The original plan was to hold the event on the Upper Dave Murray and Ptarmigan Runs, but the snow conditions wouldnt allow it. It was moved to Gandy Dancer and Lower Cruiser on Blackcomb, then to The Saddle and T-bar runs on Whistler, and finally back to Gandy Dancer and Lower Cruiser, chasing optimal snow conditions.
"Right now Gandy Dancer and Lower Cruiser are the perfect run to hold the super G, which is the longest event, and all the other on-snow events," said Whistler Mountain Ski Club program director Nigel Cooper. "Its been a bit of jumping around, and lots of concerns about snow, but everything has worked out great for us with all the snow weve gotten in the past few weeks."
Cooper expects a strong international field once again, although he would like to see the number of participating nations grow to include powerhouses like France, Germany, Finland and Sweden. Still, the U.S., Austria, Japan, Norway, Italy and other regular teams are more than able to dominate in any given year.
Two Whistler Mountain Ski Club racers, K2 Morgan Pridy and K1 Madison McLeish, have been named to the 18-member Team Canada squad. Pridy finished fifth in the national super-G finals in Banff on March 24, while McLeish has several podiums results in regional and provincial races.
All three B.C. racers on the Canadian Team, including Tyler McKenzie of Sun Peaks, took part in an Alpine Canada Training Camp led by Mark Sharp, the national technical director, World Cup coaches Jim Pollock, Matt Kerr and Rob Boyd, and athletes like Allison Forsyth and Jeff Hume.
Other WMSC skiers will represent the B.C. team, as other provinces with alpine ski programs bring their top K1s (ages 11-12) and K2s (ages 13-14).
Cooper says the goal is to get one Canadian medal this year, and four top-10 finishes.
"Were depending on the Canadians to show how its done here and follow in the footsteps of the national team, which had a great year on the World Cup," said Cooper.
"We always hope to get some great performances and it hasnt always been the case. I think we put so much energy into hosting this race, and our expectations are so high going in, that sometimes weve been disappointed by the results. That said, I think we have a really strong group this year, and we really do believe its possible to achieve four top-10 results. Anything more would be a bonus for us."
The Whistler Cup was created to be the North American counterpart to the Trofeo Topolino, juvenile races that take place in Italy every year, while giving Canadian skiers their first taste of international competition.
In addition to the race events, the Whistler Cup also includes social events to allow skiers from different countries and cultures to meet one another and form friendships, and to reunite with friends from past Whistler Cup racers.
Thursday, March 31 Training, race hill inspection
Friday, April 1 K2 super G
5:30 p.m. Athlete parade through the village, finishing at the Whistler Cup stage at the base of Whistler Mountain.
Saturday, April 2 K1 giant slalom / K2 slalom
3:30 Awards presentation at stage.
Sunday, April 3 K1 slalom / K2 giant slalom
Awards, trophy presentations and closing ceremonies to be announced.