A view of 2006 

Canadian Snowboard Team gets its first look at Olympic venues

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By Maëlle Ricker

I must admit riding an icy halfpipe does have its advantages – every pipe you ride afterwards seems so mellow.

I finished my training camp in Quebec at Mt. Avila and headed off to Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in Montreal. Finally some overseas travelling to look forward to. First stop: Italy.

The first leg of the journey was easy. I flew to Frankfurt. Six of us who were at the Mt. Avila training camp met up with the rest of the halfpipe team and some of the racers in the Frankfurt airport.

We all got on the same plane to Torino and waited for others to arrive. Hanging out in the Torino airport for four hours was a challenge. Not only was there not much to do, I also tried so hard to fight off the ever so menacing enemy, jet lag.

From there it was an easy, breezy hour-long bus ride up to Bardonnechia. Bardonnechia is the resort hosting the snowboard Olympic events next year.

I was extremely excited to spend more time in this town and get to know the snow conditions and the services that the valley provided. After all, there’s less than a year to the Torino Games.

We had three events that week, two halfpipes and one PGS. It was the test event for next year’s big show.

The bus ride up was educational. As the bus pulled out of the tiny airport I began to realize that this place was seeming very similar to Athens a couple of years ago. No major construction seemed to be taking place. Nothing looked ready to be an Olympic venue.

Five minutes before arriving in town, two construction workers were filling in some potholes and widening the road by about a metre. I chuckled to myself. I can’t believe how much grief we are getting for the Sea to Sky Highway – our road looks like a L.A. expressway compared to the road to Bardonnechia. And we still have five more years until the 2010 Games!

I did go to the World Cup finals here last year though, and the mountain has undergone some superb improvements. The old double chair was replaced over the summer with a brand new high-speed quad. This is great. Last year it took almost a half hour to do a lap on the chair and now it can be done in a matter of minutes. This will enable races and training to be a lot quicker and more efficient.

The Canadian team got an extra special treat at the event. Martin Jensen, our high performance program director, managed to get us a tour of the Olympic Village. We got to explore the bare bone structure of the construction site.

TUROC, the Torino Organizing Committee, gave us a little taste of what was to come. So far the village needs a great deal more work and I will be very impressed if they get the place built by their scheduled completion date of August this year.

The PGS went fairly smoothly. Jasey-Jay Anderson got into the top eight but couldn’t manage another podium. No other racers qualified for finals. I talked with our race team a bit and they seemed very excited about the course. The snow was great and the slope is fun and challenging enough to make for a great race next year.

The halfpipe was another question. The nice thing about the pipe’s location is that the sun hits both walls at mid-day. The bad part is that the light is very weird for the rest of the day.

We all had a great time riding despite the tricky lighting and slow snow. JP Trottier, our wax technician, was fixing up boards all night every night all week to make sure everyone could roll through the flat bottom with ease. Not only that, JP was waxing in his hotel room and ingesting wax fumes the entire time.

The halfpipe has another issue, the fact that the walls are a little undervert. This caused some extra injuries to the team. Brad Martin clocked himself pretty good re-entering the pipe and was coughing up blood. Justin Lamoureux nailed the lip of the pipe, which caused him to swan dive into the flat bottom. A trip to the Souza hospital and an X-ray later showed that Justin dislocated his pinky finger really badly and hurt his wrist.

No Canadian made it to the podium on either day of halfpipe competition. Our best result all week came from Dominique Vallee, who placed seventh on the second contest day. There are still a lot more contests this year and even more travelling. Japan is next. I’m sure we’ll bring in some more medals in the land of the rising sun.

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