Second halfpipe added, big air moved to Whistler 

Strong Canadian side looking for World Cup podiums

Poor snow conditions at the Mont Ste. Anne ski area in Quebec have resulted in the addition of a second halfpipe competition to the Nokia Snowboard World Cup in Whistler this weekend, which brings the total prize purse being awarded to $200,000.

In a late move, FIS officials have also moved the Big Air event, scheduled for Dec. 11, from Grouse Mountain to Whistler. According to FIS representatives, despite good early season condition, the predicted weather forecast meant optimal safety conditions could not be met for the tabletop jump.

The FIS did not go into detail about what the forecast, or safety concerns, were.

"While we were looking forward to hosting the Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup, we have to keep the safety of the snowboarders and our guests as our top priority," said Stuart McLaughlin, president of Grouse Mountain. "We understand and appreciate the demands of this high level competition. We respect the FIS decision and wish Whistler the best of luck."

Following the big air contest, Whistler will also host the planned after-party featuring Mikx Master Mike and Rascalz at the Whistler Conference Centre. Tickets to the concert are $19.50, or $15 for Whistler locals.

More than 200 of the best snowboarders in the world will be in Whistler for the competition, which includes snowboard cross, halfpipe, parallel giant slalom events, and big air events.

This is the fifth event on the 15-stop World Cup tour, but the first for many Canadians who stayed at home and trained.

"The athletes arrived in the middle of the night last night, after driving up in the snow storm. They’re not at full speed yet, but they will be by the time the events start this weekend," Todd Allison, the manager of the Telus Whistler Sport Centre, said Tuesday.

The centre, which was created as part of the LegaciesNow program by the Vancouver Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation, will be helping Canadian athletes with information and service, while providing logistical support for the World Cup.

"Of course some of the athletes were already here," says Allison. "This is one of those times where the local athletes who can’t afford to go to Europe, or don’t have a spot in the World Cup – someone like a Michelle Charles or an Alexa Loo – have a chance to compete here at home in front of a hometown crowd and prove what they’re worth."

For Allison, it was also an opportunity to meet some Canadian snowboarders for the first time.

"I’ve spoken to them on the phone, but it’s a chance to make a face to face connection and say, ‘look, if you need anything, here are the kinds of things we do. Get in touch with us and we’ll help you out," he says.

"It’s to help the athletes stay focused on competing, and for the coaches, to make sure everything is running smoothly, to ensure better results for the athletes, or at least to avoid any problems. Everyone is concentrating on the Olympics these days, and anything we can do to assist them on the way, we’ll do."

As in past years, the team boasts a number of strong medal contenders, including some of the top names in the sport.

Some of the Canadians competing in the halfpipe include Mike Michalchuk, Trevor Andrew, Gabe Authier, Guillaume Morisset, Brett Carpentier, Natasza Zurek, Lori Glazier, Dominique Vallee, Kim Dunn and Manon Roy.

Each halfpipe event has a $40,000 prize purse, and both the men’s and the women’s events will have two qualification runs and two final runs, with a training run in between.

In the parallel giant slalom on Sunday, Canada will be anchored by Jasey Jay Anderson, the reigning overall World Champion and snowboard cross champion. Other alpine boarders to watch are Darren Chalmers, Mark Fawcett, Ian Hadgkiss, Jerome Sylvestre, David Vaughan, Francois Boivin, Ryan Wedding, Melissa Barclay, Helene Cloutier, Loo and Charles.

The Big Air will include athletes like Whistler’s Kevin Sansalone and Jesse Fox, plus a strong core of European and U.S. riders.

Whistler’s event facilities are looking good after four feet of snow fell in less than a week, and both the snowboard cross course and halfpipe will be built to FIS specifications. All events, with the exception of the Big Air, will take place on Blackcomb Mountain.

Schedule:

Friday, Dec. 7

9 a.m. – Women’s halfpipe qualifier

11:45 a.m. – Men’s halfpipe qualifier

1:15 p.m. – Halfpipe finals, best two out of three scores.

Saturday, Dec. 8

9:30 a.m. – Women’s qualifier for second halfpipe contest

11:45 a.m. – Men’s qualifier

1:15 – Halfpipe finals, best two out of three scores

Sunday, Dec. 9

9:30 – Parallel Giant Slalom qualifier

1 p.m. – PGS Finals

Tuesday, Dec. 11

Times T.B.A. – Big Air competition

Training will take place in the morning, and the competition in the afternoon at a venue that’s still to be named.

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