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Whistler Olympic Park to host Nordic Junior World Ski Championships

Taking place from Jan. 27 to Feb. 5, it will be the largest competition to grace Callaghan Valley since the 2010 Olympics
Whistler Olympic Park is set to host the 2023 FIS Nordic Ski World Junior Championship, the largest sporting event in Callaghan Valley since the 2010 Olympic Games.

The FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships are coming to Whistler.

Beginning this Friday, Jan. 27 and concluding Sunday, Feb. 5, more than 500 athletes representing 37 countries will take to the trails and jumps at Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) for the largest competition held there since the 2010 Winter Olympics. They will be joined by more than 200 coaches, trainers and support personnel.

It will be only the third time in history that Canada has hosted the Nordic Ski World Juniors. Canmore, Alta. was the last Canadian city to have that privilege, back in 1997.

The athletes, who are between the ages of 16 and 23, will be in contention for medals and world championship titles in all three Nordic disciplines: cross-country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined, which is an amalgamation of the previous two events.

“The 2023 World Junior Ski Championships are an incredible opportunity to reignite the passion of the 2010 Winter Olympics, inspire young athletes and share the beauty of the Sea to Sky region with the world,” said Norman Laube, chairperson of the Black Tusk Nordic Events Society (BTNES), which organized the event.

“Whistler is the only active ski jump in Canada, so it pretty much made sense that we focus on the legacy of 2010 and try to bring world-class events back to this area,” he continued.


According to Laube, the idea of bringing a Nordic World Championship to WOP has been percolating since the 2010 Olympics concluded. Roughly five years ago, a steering committee was formed representing Nordiq Canada, Ski Jumping Canada and Nordic Combined Ski Canada. Its mission: to evaluate how feasible it would be to deliver the World Juniors to Whistler.

The next step happened in 2019, when BTNES took shape with the express aim of bringing high-level Nordic competitions to Callaghan Valley. Over the last three years, Laube and his colleagues have partnered closely with Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL), the park’s parent organization, to turn their shared ambitions into reality.

WOP managing director Tim Hope was involved with the 2010 Games, and he admits to feeling nostalgic as he watches various national teams arrive and prepare for the competition. Above all, he is grateful for the hard work and dedication of his colleagues over the last few years.

“This is the result of an exceptional amount of effort by everybody to put this on,” he said. “There’s always a lot of camaraderie and friendships that are rekindled in these [major events]. It’s community building, which is important to our facility, our sports, and it’s a big part of what we do here.”

WSL personnel have joined their BTNES peers in conversations held by the World Juniors organizing committee for some time.

Hope and his team have prepared their facility in various ways for the big show ahead: grooming trails, running the chairlift and readying the ski jumps, which only become operational during competitions where they are needed.

Meanwhile, BTNES is committing 350 volunteers to carry out all sorts of duties, from accounting and sponsorships to officiating and food service. Some of these individuals were involved with the 2010 Olympics and have continued to serve at smaller competitions over the years, such as Coast Cups, BC Cups and Continental Cups, as well as the Canadian Nationals.

When asked about the process of putting the World Juniors together, Laube specifically pointed out the involvement of Olympian John Aalberg, an internationally-known expert in designing and hosting large-scale sporting events. Aalberg helped organize Vancouver 2010’s Nordic contests and now serves as Chief Operating Officer and FIS liaison for BTNES.


Earlier this week, Laube found himself talking with members of the American cross-country ski team, who were training in Whistler ahead of the competition. They were “thrilled” at the healthy amount of snow awaiting them in Callaghan Valley, a stark and welcome contrast to many snow-starved parts of Europe they had visited on the World Cup circuit.

Yet the real sources of pride, according to Hope, are the Canadian athletes who will soon don the Maple Leaf once more. A number of them, including cross-country skier Xavier McKeever and ski jumper Alexandria Loutitt, were first inspired to take up Nordic sports by the 2010 Olympics. Now, they have a chance to inspire a new generation of youngsters who could one day join them on Team Canada.

“Everyone hopes that [this event] inspires kids and youth to get involved in sport, talk to their local clubs and sign up for programs ... as has happened to other athletes [like McKeever and Loutitt],” Hope said. “The dream is that these moments excite folks around them.”

Laube has seen firsthand what this current crop of Canadians can do. He attended the 2020 World Juniors in Germany, where McKeever, Remi Drolet, Olivier Léveillé and Thomas Stephen won silver in the 4x5-kilometre relay. It was, of course, the first medal in that discipline ever earned by Team Canada at a world championship.

Those same athletes will be back to try for more hardware, but this time on home soil.

“They really value the experience of a World Juniors competition, and they’re just so excited to be able to do it here at home,” Laube said.

During the event, the park’s regular operations with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, biathlon and tobogganing will continue as normal. That said, guests are encouraged to check WSL’s conditions page for trail closures in the event areas. The Day Lodge, housing a rental shop and café, will be open as well.

Tickets are $5 per day, or $25 for access on all competition days. Kids aged six and under get in for free, as do those who have a regular WOP day ticket or season pass for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Free parking is available.

A full schedule can be viewed on the World Juniors website, which also offers live streaming for fans unable to cheer on the athletes in person.