The biggest cross-country skiing competition in Red Deer’s history is underway.
Nearly 500 racers are competing at the combined Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 from Friday to Sunday at Riverbend Golf and Recreation Area.
Over the past four years, Red Deer has hosted three Alberta Cups, but those don’t compare to the size of this event, said Tom Marr-Laing, president of the Parkland Cross-Country Ski Club and also the Chief of Competition for the event.
Skiers from all across Western Canada, and some from eastern provinces, came to compete.
There are even a few Olympic-level skiers here to get as many points as they can to improve their position in the national standings.
“We often don’t get those elite level athletes competing in the Alberta Cup – the standards and the expectations are much more stringent at the national level,” said Marr-Laing.
There were sprint races Friday, while Saturday will focus on 10-15K races and Sunday will be about relays.
“There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of fun,” Marr-Laing said. “It’s been 18 months of work preparing for this weekend, as well as for next year’s Canada Winter Games.”
This weekend is a test event for next year’s games. Marr-Laing said about 95 per cent of the work to make the test event a success is already complete.
“It’s been a particularly challenging year because there’s been little snow. The snow we’re standing on now is man-made snow.
“There’s a few grey hairs people have put on to get ourselves to here, but looking at where where we were to now, I’d say we passed the test,” he said.
This week’s warm weather has caused some complications, Marr-Laing added.
“Our snow base is quite thin and some places took a bit of a beating (Thursday). But we have a crew out now with snowmobiles, skid steers and they’re carrying a bunch of snow into the hills that were hurt by the sun,” he said.
When the Winter Games were announced, it freed up the capital to upgrade the trails, Marr-Laing said.
“If we didn’t have the Winter Games, we wouldn’t be doing this event this weekend. The two go hand-in-hand.
“We’re going to have a facility that’s going to be fantastic for Red Deerians to enjoy recreationally … and if we want to host more of these kind of events in the future we can now do that,” said Marr-Laing.
Alanna Butler, Red Deer Nordic Ski Community, said there was a good turnout of skiers from the local club.
“It’s always a good experience for them to race with different athletes,” said Butler.
“It’s fun for them to be on home ground because they know the trails well. With the trails being widened it’s really fun for them to ski on now,” she said.
Day One Winners
- Junior Women 1200m: Kaia Andal, British Columbia
- Senior Women 1200m: Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt, Quebec
- Junior Men 1200m: Tallon Noble, British Columbia
- Senior Men 1200m: Jesse Cockney, Alberta
- Juvenile Girls 800m: Marielle Ackermann, British Columbia
- Junior Girls 800m: Molly Miller, British Columbia
- Juvenile Boys 800m: Stephen Lamon, British Columbia
- Junior Boys 800m: Ian Oliphant, British Columbia
- Midget Girls 300m: Zara Bucher, British Columbia
- Midget Boys 300m: Pedar Ree, British Columbia