Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff Ski cross and snowboard run builder Jeff Ihaksi, right, talks with David Martel, a co-owner of the Canyon Ski Resort.

Olympic ski run designer creates upgrades at Canyon Ski Resort

Jeff Ihaksi says free-style and alpine ski venues are Canada Winter Games-worthy

Olympic ski run designer Jeff Ihaksi is giving Canyon Ski Resort’s upgrades a big thumbs up, saying the “unique” facility is primed to host North American competitions and train national-calibre athletes.

“It’s an awesome resort” that should be more than ready to host freestyle skiing and snowboarding events for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, said Ihaksi. He compares the pitch and quality of the new runs — as well as the resort’s snow-making capacity — to world-class alpine facilities in Ontario.

Ihaksi can envision future national, or even international competitions being held at the Red Deer-area ski resort. He also predicts the facility will become an excellent training ground for local athletes that could vie for a future spot on Team Canada.

“It does expose more youths to the sport,” added the ski venue creator, who noted an athlete from Prince George, B.C. — which also had its ski venues upgraded in preparation for 2015 the Canada Winter Games — is now on the national ski team.

Ihaksi feels there’s something special about Canyon’s close proximity to Red Deer, as well as our “clear, blue skies,” and extended ski season, which comes with the earlier onset of Alberta winters.

Praise from Ihaksi is high praise indeed, since the Whistler, B.C.-area former snowboard-cross competitor has been designing runs around the world since the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. He’s helped create ski venues at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, as well as the Korean Olympics last winter. His next project will be working for the Beijing Olympics of 2022.

Ihaksi began working on the Canyon upgrades three years ago, initially helping design the new ski-cross run with Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners.

Once a suitable slope was chosen, a lot of tree clearing was carried out largely by hand three years ago, said David Martell, co-owner of Canyon Ski Resort. Some grading was later done to shape the pitch. Now that it’s all covered with snow, Ihaksi is carrying out a final inspection this week.

His past experience as a competitive athlete is credited for helping him get a feel for the kinds of grades and curves that will be appreciated by competitors at the Canada Winter Games.

Ihaksi feels there were no real challenges to creating the new slope in Red Deer — only Martell did have some trouble getting tree clearers who could work on such a steep grade.

The $1.6 million of improvements made to Canyon Ski Resort also include new runs for aerials, moguls, slope-style skiing, big air events and the parallel and giant slalom.

Martell is very excited about these course improvements, saying some of these six new runs will be opened to the public as of Dec. 26.

He added the legacy of the Games means the resort “will not only benefit clubs and teams, but also families and public skiers.”

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