Freeheel world championships coming to Whistler
Whistler is missing out on its annual downhill fix on Whistler Mountain's Dave Murray Downhill course, but free-heelers will be tripping to Whistler in March to check out the World Telemark Championships.
While the FIS sponsored Dash for Cash has died a made for TV death, the World Telemark Championships could fill a void on the international race scene as competition-starved fans will get a chance to watch the best telemark racers on the globe compete for world dominance. From March 25 to 30, 200 athletes from 12 countries — including the tele-dominant Scandinavians — will converge on Whistler Mountain for super G, GS, Classic and dual slalom races.
The race announcement comes hot on the heels of three years of hard work by the Whistler Telemark Club, which is hosting the race in conjunction with the FIS, Telemark Canada, Sportpak and the International Telemark Federation. This the first time the world's have been held in Canada.
While the Canadian National Telemark team gains recognition on the World Cup Circuit as an up and comer, local organizers say the 1996 World Championships will be a great way to showcase the sport of telemark racing and the strong Canadian team.
"The Canadian team is very strong and we will have the home court advantage," says race organizer Rumi Merali. "For the first time we will have the home snow advantage and our racers will be waking up in their own beds on race day. That is a good feeling."
The World Telemark Championships will have a real hometown feel as five members of the Canadian team are based in Whistler. Paula Steinheber, Fred Lamothe, Fred Lavoie, Danny Albrechtson and Rob Neaga are all well-known local faces who will be competing for Canada at the world's.
The one unfortunate part of the announcement is Whistler fans will not be able to watch Canada's top ranked telemark racer, Leslie Clement, because she has retired from the World Cup circuit and returned to her hometown in Quebec. Clement, who finished fourth overall in the World Cup standings last season, has opted out of the competitive ranks because paying her own way in search of World Cup victories was too expensive.
While downhill skiing fanatics on the West Coast will head to Lake Louise in December for their FIS fix, tele fans from around the world will be in Whistler to check out the growing sport — which some say is poised on the verge of being granted Olympic medal status.
"The Europeans have been wanting to come to Canada for a major race for a long time and they will be here in the spring," says national team member Steinheber, currently ranked eighth in the World Cup standings.
The event will feature an opening torchlight parade from Whistler's Olympic Station and an athlete parade through the village. The GS will be held on Raven while the Classic and super G races will take place on the upper sections of the Dave Murray Downhill. The dual slalom will be held at the Pontiac Race Centre under the Green Chair.
"We have a strong Canadian team who are all looking forward to shredding on home turf," says an obviously excited Steinheber. "Watch out Whistler for the world's fastest and most furious freeheelers in March."
According to Steinheber the Whistler Telemark Club is in the process of looking for volunteers to help make the World's a stellar success. Volunteers are being sought for all types of positions, from the torchlight parade to gatekeepers. The organizers are also in the process of tapping into some sponsorships. Anyone interested in volunteering or sponsoring the World Telemark Championships can call 938-1184.