Posted by: Feet Banks
Special Guest Blogger: Michel Beaudry
April in Whistler. It’s become a rite of passage for a whole generation of alpine ski champions. And it’s getting better every year. Whether Austrian or Slovenian, Quebecois or British Columbian, young ski racers everywhere now dream of traveling to Whistler for a chance to compete in what for many will be their first big international event.
Photo courtesy Whistler Mountain Ski Club/Coast Mountain Photography
No question about it — the Whistler Cup rocks. And it rocks precisely because its time-tested format is unique. The only event of its kind in North America, the 21-year old race brings together the elite of the world’s ski racing youth for a week-long competition that is as much about fun and learning as it is about reaching the top step of the podium.
But make no mistake. While the Whistler Cup’s social-interaction factor is high, the racing is still fast and furious… as a list of Whistler Cup alumni quickly establishes. Canadian Cowboys Jan Heduc, Eric Guay and Manny Osborne Paradis all attended the event… as did their Speed Queen counterparts Britt Janyk, Kelly Vanderbeek and Emily Brydon. Skicross champions Ashleigh McIvor and Chris Delbosco were also Whistler Cup competitors. In fact, Ashleigh won Olympic gold just down the road in Vancouver in 2010 — fourteen years after her first international breakthrough at the Whistler Cup…
While the list of Canadian stars is impressive, it’s the young athletes who’ve attended from foreign lands that really make the Whistler Cup shine. Consider such alpine luminaries as Austrian technical ace Benjamin Raich or American superstars Lindsay Vonn and Julia Mancuso, Italian champ Christof Innerhofer, or even current World Cup diva Tina Maze of Slovenia. Though their various paths to alpine ski racing stardom reflect their different backgrounds and cultures, all came through British Columbia and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club’s “kids” event.
Left:Photo by Mike Crane. Right: Photo by Coast Mountain Photography
Not bad, eh? And it’s still growing. “This year,” says Whistler Cup manager Christiane Loring, “the race features athletes representing 17 countries… not to mention the many Canadian skiers representing their own clubs and provinces.” They’re all between the ages of 12-15, adds Loring. And there’s a heck of a lot of them. “At this point,” she explains, “we have 230 youngsters signed up in the 12/13 year-old category and 115 in the 14-15 year-old group.” She shrugs. “Sure, it’s a lot of work. But to see the smiles on those kids face at the end of the week – that’s priceless.”
The racing starts on Friday April 5th with a Super-G event for the 14-15 year olds and continues into the weekend with a full slate of slalom and giant slalom races for both age groups. Like this week’s high-flying Canadian Alpine Ski Championships, all the Whistler Cup races will be held at the new Dave Murray Training Centre located just off the Garbanzo Chair on Whistler Mountain’s north side. Also – you can catch all the flair and excitement of a big international race by attending the Opening Ceremonies and Team Parade in Village Square on Friday April 5, 2013. Live music and festivities begin at 3 PM with the parade of nations set to begin at 5 PM. Local musicians will take to the stage again at 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday with the closing ceremonies taking place in the Village Square at 5 PM Sunday, April 7.
Check out the Whistler Cup promo video below and come cheer on the races. Also, kids ski and stay free April 1-21, 2013 at Whistler.com.