Some of the world’s best skiers are racing in central Alberta this weekend.
Canyon Ski Resort hosted a NorAm Cup race, the Canadian National Championships for ski cross, Saturday, following training on Thursday and qualifying on Friday. The U19 championships are Sunday.
Next weekend, a World Cup ski cross event is being held at the Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis, west of Calgary. Some of the top skiers from Switzerland, Japan and the United States used this event as an opportunity to train for the world cup event.
“Instead of having a normal NorAm field, we have about 20 of the top 50 racers in the world,” said Stephen Carter, chief of race.
Many Canadian athletes were excited and “a little nervous” to go up against the international competition, said Carter.
“I was telling one of the athletes that this is the most competition they’ll ever see until they make it to the world cup,” he said.
“It’s one thing when you’re up against the best in Canada, and of course Canada is the best team in the world and you are racing against the best, but you know them. Those athletes that are now racing against the Swiss or the Japanese, they don’t know them the way they know the other athletes from Canada.”
David Martel, Canyon general manager, said it was an exciting weekend for the ski resort.
“It’s like having the Wayne Gretzky of ski cross at your resort. A lot of these younger athletes are skiing beside some of the people they hope to be. It’s pretty exciting to see them excited,” said Martel.
Martel said a major reason Canyon is able to host an event like this is because of the legacy of the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“This isn’t the only event we have booked at our resort for this winter. It’s kind of the first of many large events. We have everything from U14 races on the alpine side at the end of March, we have Canada Cup moguls, followed by junior nationals, which is quite as exciting as well,” he said.
The early months of the skiing and snowboarding season has been positive for Canyon, Martel added.
“We got off to a great start this year. We started with some colder weather, followed by some warmer weather. But it’s always a fine line in the winter business. You need cold weather to make your snow to get all your runs ready, but obviously if it’s too cold people don’t like to come out too much. The last few weeks before this cold snap have been great though,” he said.