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World Cup freestyle moves to Fernie

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Date conflicted with busy American holiday for W-B

For the first time since 1991, the International Skiing Federation (FIS) will not be holding a World Cup of Freestyle in Whistler.

The event will still be held in B.C., but has been moved to Fernie Alpine Resort. It will be held in January.

According to Canadian Freestyle Ski Association president and CEO Pat Smith, the decision to move the event was made back in the spring. It was officially added to the FIS competitive calendar after their annual general meeting in June.

"We were caught between World Cup scheduling, and FIS scheduling and what was available time-wise with Whistler-Blackcomb," said Smith.

"We know some people will be sorry to see it go, but we needed to make sure that the timing was good for everyone. They like to keep the events together, the European events with the European events, the North American events with the North American events… And this is what was available to us," she added.

The January freestyle weekend didn’t conflict with a specific event on Blackcomb Mountain, but fell close enough to the Jan. 20 Martin Luther King Junior long-weekend for the resort to be at capacity, according to Smith.

Producing a World Cup event requires event crews, trail maintenance crews, ski patrollers, and the use of mountain equipment to move equipment and people.

"It was going to be in conflict with a weekend that is traditionally a big tourist weekend for them," Smith said.

Blackcomb has played host to World Cup freestyle events every year since 1991, and hosted the FIS Freestyle World Championships in 2001.

Whistler-Blackcomb has made a huge commitment to freestyle skiing in the past, building an aerials jump site behind the Glacier Lodge as well as a water ramp for summer training. In addition, the national team regularly holds training camps on the Horstman Glacier.

Each commitment to hold a World Cup event lasts three years, which means Fernie will be hosting the Western Canada freestyle World Cup through January of 2005. Mont Tremblant will continue to host the Eastern Canada events earlier in the month.

"Typically we like to see some consistency from year to year so when we sign a contract it’s for three years," she said.

The decision to move to Fernie was made with the full backing of the mountain, and the Fernie Chamber of Commerce.

"They’re absolutely thrilled. It’s going to be a great opportunity for freestyle, and give some exposure to the sport in an area that hasn’t had a lot of freestyle exposure. They’re a great mountain and a great community," said Smith.

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