Christmas came early for Alpine Canada Alpin this year, with General Motors Canada renewing its sponsorship of the Pontiac GMC Cup and Canadian Championships through to the next Winter Olympics at Turin, Italy in 2006.
The announcement came as members of the national and development team met in Warren, Michigan to work on their form in the automotive manufacturers state-of-the-art wind tunnel.
"General Motors is a key player supporting our efforts to return this country to international ski racing success," said ACA President Ken Read. "GM is delivering the financial and technical resources our athletes need to win. Access to a facility like the GM wind tunnel in the United States is an extremely valuable tool that can help our athletes find their fastest form and ultimately win races."
Since it was resurrected in 1998, the Pontiac GMC Cup has made its presence felt in ski racing. The series and the championship have provided top athletes with a venue to compete, and to move up the ranks from the club level to the national team.
According to the ACA, every womens Pontiac GMC Cup champion since the series was resurrected in 1998 Christina Risler, Stéphanie Oullet Décoste, Maggie Pattillo and Brigitte Acton is on the Canadian Alpine Ski Team Roster.
The Pontiac Cup Series originally ran from 1969 to 1981 and during that time helped to launch the careers of World Cup champions Laurie Graham, Steve Podborski, Todd Brooker, and Kathy and Laurie Kreiner. Read himself, one of the legendary Crazy Canucks, competed in the series.
"This partnership renewal demonstrates GM of Canadas strong commitment to alpine racing in this country through the next Winter Olympics," said Marc Comeau, the vice president of sales, service and marketing for GM Canada. "The more than 40 Pontiac GMC Cup races held across Canada these past four years have been key to the development of a very strong group of emerging Canadian racers. More than $50,000 in prize money is won each year by young racers."
The wind tunnel is a new twist on training for the elite skiers, and judging by the initial response it will become a regular tool.
Acton, 16, the reigning Pontiac GMC Cup champion from Sault Ste-Marie, Ontario, said (pun intended): "It blew me away. I learned a lot about my body position and became very aware of the effect wind has on you. It was an awesome experience."
The 2003 Pontiac GMC Cup season opens at Nakiska in January. Other races take place at Devils Glen and Georgian Peaks in Ontario, Le Massif in Quebec, and Apex in Penticton. The series wraps up with the national championships at Whistler in March.