Snowboard World Cup to return to Whistler 

New school freestyle events may be held on Blackcomb; Vail loses bid for multiple World Championships in 2009

The Federation Internationale de Ski, or FIS, held its annual congress in Miami last week to discuss sports and vote on locations for future winter sports events.

Whistler came out ahead, and was once again awarded the right to host a World Cup snowboarding event in December of 2005. Held every year in Whistler for almost a decade, the 2004 event was put aside this December to allow the resort to focus on the 2005 FIS Snowboard World Championships in January.

The organizations hosting the World Championships presented their plans to the other FIS delegates at the Congress, and according to Tom McIllfaterick, the CEO of the Canadian Snowboard Federation, Whistler’s plans were well-received.

"They were happy with our progress reports, and what we saw in Miami was that teams are very interested in the World Championships, so we expect a large turnout when January rolls around," he said.

Hosting the World Championships at home is a big motivator for Canadian athletes, says McIllfaterick, one that was necessary to take the sport and its athletes to the next level in this country.

"It a bigger year for us for two reasons," said McIllfaterick. "One is that we’re hosting and it’s a chance to show off our team at home, and it’s a chance for the athletes to compete in front of a home crowd. Hopefully, it’s a chance, through the media, for Canadians to start to get to know them and get beyond just the results – get to know their faces, their personalities. We don’t get enough of that in the media coverage that generally takes place.

"(The second reason) is that we’re heading into an Olympic year. The World Championships are nowhere near as big as the Olympics, but they’re still the second-biggest for us. It’s a good test run for us to start to get our athletes trained for the way they have to work during the Games – not just on-hill training and competing, but everything from self control to how to handle themselves at receptions."

The CSF recently brought on two new sponsors, Telus and RBC, that will help to better establish the national program. In the past the CSF has lagged behind Alpine Canada Alpin and the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association at the administrative level.

The national snowboard team and development team are currently holding a summer training camp in Whistler on the Blackcomb Glacier, which has been better attended and better supported than in the past.

In addition to securing Whistler as a future site for World Cup snowboard events, the FIS is looking at Whistler as a potential site for new school Freestyle events in the future: skier cross, halfpipe and big air.

In the past Whistler has held World Cup moguls and aerials competition, but those events moved to Fernie two years ago.

Future World Championship sites were also selected at the Miami meeting. Following Whistler the Snowboard World Championships will be in Arosa, Switzerland in 2007 and at Sung Woo Resort in South Korea in 2009.

According to McIllfaterick, South Korea – the runner up to Vancouver in the bidding for the 2010 Winter Games – is already campaigning for the 2014 Olympics. Representatives already have 2014 business cards, and they bid on the championships to show that the country can host large scale events.

The decision to award the championships to South Korea was a sore point for a contingent from Vail that was bidding to host the 2009 Snowboard, Freestyle and Alpine World Championships in the same year.

Regarded by some as an attempt to steal the limelight from Whistler, the plan fell apart when Vail was told by FIS that they wouldn’t take all three bids as a package, but review them separately. The Vail contingent took the position that they wanted all three events or they wouldn’t host any.

In the middle of the Congress Vail representatives changed their minds and dropped their bids to host the snowboard and freestyle events, focussing instead on the Alpine World Championships.

A few feathers were ruffled during the bidding process, according to sources, and the FIS Congress voted overwhelmingly in favour of sending the 2009 Alpine World Championships to Val d’Isere in France.

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