For the first time since it opened during the 2008-09 season, the Whistler Sliding Centre will not be hosting any World Cups, or races of an equivalent level, this coming winter.
The International Luge Federation (FIL) and International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) both released their 2014-15 schedules last week, and Whistler was not included on either.
Both circuits have two North American stops this season, each heading to Calgary and Lake Placid, N.Y., in December.
Generally, the FIL and FIBT have utilized the North American tracks on somewhat of a rotation, and it appears Whistler — along with Park City, Utah — has been rotated out for this season.
This winter will be the second in a row where the FIBT does not bring a World Cup to Whistler, having stopped at all three other North American venues during the 2013-14 season. The FIL has brought a World Cup-level race to Whistler every year since the Olympics, including the 2013 Luge World Championships.
For local track operator Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL), the lack of a major race at the venue this season is disappointing, said WSL president and CEO Roger Soane. However, Soane said he'd like to work with the sliding sport federations in the future to make Whistler a more attractive destination for major races, and to turn World Cups in the resort into a larger tourism product.
In order to do that, WSL would like to see schedules confirmed sooner than six months before each season opens.
"The challenge is that the FIBT (and FIL) don't announce these things until the May of that year," said Soane. "Even if it was every other year, if we knew they were coming every other year on the first week of December, we could start to build a sliding festival as a tourism product. The challenge is that we never know when they're going to come."
Soane noted that the cost of running World Cup races in North America can be onerous for the European-based sliding circuits and WSL is continuing to look for ways to make future Whistler races more financially viable. He said schedules drafted further in advance could help to that end, as it would allow more time to apply for government funding.
Both World Cup races being held in Calgary this winter will be supplemented by grant funding, according to a spokesperson for both of Canada's sliding-sport associations.
In March, FIBT officials visited the Whistler Sliding Centre to walk the track, though WSL hasn't yet received results of their assessment. Soane said he's hopeful to obtain any official feedback from the FIBT at the end of May, when he and track director Tracy Seitz will travel to Europe to meet with the federation.
However, Soane said FIBT officials gave the impression they were pleased with their visit earlier this year.
"They seemed very happy and would love to come back to Whistler. It's a matter of working out the finances," said Soane. "They like Whistler... because it's built for sport and it's a great location."
Although the FIBT and FIL's lower-circuit schedules were not available at press time, it is expected that Whistler will host multiple development-level races in 2014-15.
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