Weasels off to Winterstart 

Lake Louise to host opening men’s and women’s speed events

By Andrew Mitchell

With a solid early season base to work with, Lake Louise Mountain Resort has some of the best conditions in years for the annual Winterstart World Cup and Nor-Am ski races.

The festival, which kicks off on Nov. 25-26 with the men’s downhill and super-G and wraps up on Dec. 3 after two women’s downhill races and a super-G, is also riding high with the addition of a new sponsor. Bombardier is the presenting sponsor for all five events, as well as a prominent new addition to Alpine Canada’s growing list of supporters.

Following the World Cup events, Lake Louise will host four Nor-Am Cup downhill races — two for men and two for women, through Dec. 8.

Whistler will be well represented, mostly in the Nor-Am Cup events, with local FIS skiers taking part. Britt Janyk, who has focused on technical World Cup events with the national team for the past few years, will also be racing in more speed events.

Canada’s top contender on the men’s side is Erik Guay, who finished last season ranked 11 th in downhill and sixth in super-G — despite missing most of the second half of the season with torn ligaments in his left knee. Last year he earned three World Cup medals, and placed fourth in super-G at the Olympics (opting not to race in downhill out of concern for his knee).

Invermere’s Manuel Osborne-Paradis, a graduate of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, is also a strong contender after wrapping up last season ranked 29 th in downhill. Francois Bourque was just three spots back, and improves in leaps and bounds with every season. John Kucera also showed he could race speed as well as technical.

On the women’s side, Whistler’s Britt Janyk won both the national downhill and super G titles last year despite focusing almost entirely on technical events on the World Cup circuit. She has changed gear this year, and has been blowing the team away in training all summer.

Ontario’s Kelly Vanderbeek was Canada’s top speed skier last year, ranked 31 st in downhill and 16 th in super G. As a rookie Sherry Lawrence of Calgary was 34 th in downhill and 51 st in super-G. Emily Brydon of Fernie had a disappointing season overall, but with moments of brilliance in all four disciplines. She finished the season 44 th in downhill and 17 th in super-G.

Shona Rubens also made her World Cup downhill debut, and finished the season ranked 44 th .

Genevieve Simard is also racing well, finishing last season ranked fifth in GS, 19 th in the super-G, and 17 th overall.

Some of Whistler’s Weasel Workers have already headed to Lake Louise to help local crews prepare the race courses. Unlike recent years they will have enough natural snow to work with, although Lake Louise is making snow for insurance.

Lake Louise currently hosts Canada’s only World Cup events, but the Federation Internationale de Ski will decide at the end of November whether to give Canada another five World Cup races in 2008 —  men’s super-G and giant slalom, and women’s downhill and super combined at Whistler, and women’s giant slalom and slalom races at Panorama.

Alpine Canada president Ken Read welcomes the additional races.

“We will see the addition of new races and the return of technical events to Canada, which complements the speed events in Lake Louise,” said Read. “That gives us some benefits in the form of capacity — having the expertise we need to host races and the Olympics, like trained officials — as well as additional resources and interest in the sport nationally.”

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