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W5 still dealing with Alpine Canada A deal between the W5 group and Alpine Canada to make Whistler the permanent home of a men’s World Cup downhill race should be signed next month, despite some differing philosophies. The W5 group — Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Whistler Resort Association, the municipality, Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. and the Vancouver Ski Foundation — met just before Christmas to analyze an offer made to Alpine Canada. Bill McNeney of the Vancouver Ski Foundation says the meeting was "pretty positive, everyone wants to get a deal done." However, McNeney says Alpine Canada is complicating negotiations. "Alpine Canada has seen our business plan and are saying the W5 group is going to make all kinds of money, therefore you should pay us to fund our program." In the past, the International Ski Federation (FIS) has granted the rights to host World Cup races to the sport’s governing body in each country. The national office (Alpine Canada) then decides what ski areas will host World Cup races. The host ski area pays a sanction fee to the national office. But the system is beginning to change, as ski areas like Vail begin to deal directly with the FIS, bypassing their national ski federation. McNeney and other members of the W5 group have been dealing directly with FIS officials but Alpine Canada, which is badly in need of funds, seems determined to be a middle man in any deal. Both Alpine Canada and the FIS say they want Whistler as a regular December stop on the men’s World Cup downhill tour. The W5 group has put together a business plan that would make the race a community-wide festival to launch the ski season in the resort. The W5 group believes the event can become a money maker, perhaps involving a lottery, which would generate cash for community needs. Vail has used its World Cup races to fund a variety of programs. "The FIS people aren’t going to see this fall apart because of some protocol through the sport’s governing body," McNeney says. While a deal between the W5 group and Alpine Canada is expected to be signed next month, the negotiations have gone to the 11th hour. To host a race next December Whistler Mountain must install snowmaking on the Dave Murray Downhill course. The physical installation of the system is not overly difficult, but obtaining the necessary permits and water rights takes about six months. Therefore, a deal must be concluded in January if the race is to happen next December. While McNeney is more optimistic that a deal can be reached than he was earlier this month he says there is still some way to go before a race is guaranteed. "I think the biggest job is who’s going to write the first cheque," he says.

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