New competition to add winter thrills 

Snow Sports Canada Cup to be awarded for first time in 2015-16

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CANADIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE - Cup challenge Local snowboarder Mercedes Nicoll is one athlete excited about the possibilities of the Snow Sports Canada Cup, which will be awarded for the first time next season.
  • Photo Courtesy of the Canadian Olympic Committee
  • Cup challenge Local snowboarder Mercedes Nicoll is one athlete excited about the possibilities of the Snow Sports Canada Cup, which will be awarded for the first time next season.

Next winter, expect to see a healthy Marielle Thompson take on Mercedes Nicoll.

Never mind that Thompson competes in ski cross while Nicoll is a halfpipe snowboarder.

The competition will take place in the form of the Snow Sports Canada Cup, which will be awarded by newly formed Snow Sports Canada. The organization will compile Canadian athletes' results in alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, cross-country, biathlon, ski jumping and Nordic combined in World Cup and world championship events.

There will be prizes awarded to the top finisher in both the men's and women's divisions, Snow Sports Canada representative Mike Spicer explained, but the final awards have not yet been determined.

Snow Sports Canada is made up the national sport organizations for the seven aforementioned sports — they "pooled their sponsorship and marketing assets to create something unique," Spicer explained at a press conference at the Garibaldi Lift Co. on April 13.

Spicer explained the Cup was created to help drive fan interest in all snow sports. As well, the website will be designed to provide a round-up of all Canadian athletes competing in the various sports and disciplines.

"We find that some of the average skiers that you might find here on the hill, they're a little bit disengaged from the FIS events and how they compete," Spicer said. "We want to create something exciting and engaging for them."

It might take a moment for fans — and athletes — to wrap their heads around it, but it should add excitement, Nicoll said.

"At first I was confused, I didn't really get it," Nicoll, a three-time Olympian, admitted. "Then after hearing about how it was bringing all these sports together just for Canada, I think that's so great.

"To have prize money in the end, every athlete will be grateful for that."

Nothing like it exists for winter sports elsewhere in the world, but Spicer drew a line to the Capital One Cup, which is awarded to the top schools based on results in a plethora of NCAA Division I sports.

Slopestyle skier Kim Lamarre of Quebec hadn't heard of anything quite like it, but was excited for the opportunity to generate interest.

"We're all great athletes, so why not try to get everyone interested in what we do?" she reasoned.

Ultimately, the more fan interest in the sports there is, the more sponsors are willing to make dollars available to athletes in those sports, Spicer reasoned.

Still to be decided, as well, is the scoring formula. It's a complicated process, Spicer explained, as organizers are looking to create a fair shot for all athletes while eliminating variables like field size and number of competitions as factors.

This season, the organization test-drove a system where any top 20 finish earned points for an eligible athlete. Six of the seven national sport organizations in eight different disciplines had athletes crack the top 20.

Spicer said there are still two schools of thought as to which system would be used, be it every result above a certain benchmark (i.e. every top 20 finish), or a certain number of choice performances (i.e. every athlete's top five finishes).

"For us, it was a minor success to understand that we really could see that competition across the board, across sport," he said. "That's what we really want to see."

Spicer stressed Snow Sports Canada is working closely with each of the sports' governing organizations, and feels all will benefit in the end.

"We're not leveraging or taking ownership or any individual events. We're not really taxing them with any larger piece that they have to own and manage," he said. "They're very territorial in terms of how their sports are unique and distinct and we want to make sure that the points tracking system is representative of that."



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