Whistler, Canadian ski team getting reacquainted 

This week's national championships the beginning of a long-term relationship

A relationship that was once strong and vibrant is being renewed this week on the slopes of the Dave Murray Downhill.

Whistler and the Canadian Alpine Ski Team were once synonymous, but when World Cup races were wiped out three years in a row, between 1996 and 1998, and with the Canadian team posting inconsistent results in the late ’90s and early part of the new millennium, the relationship and the interest faded.

But three years ago things changed for both Whistler and Alpine Canada. The awarding of the 2010 Winter Olympics to Vancouver and Whistler focused local attention on ski racing again.

And following Ken Read’s appointment as president of Alpine Canada the organization put in place a long-term plan for the development of Canadian ski racers like Erik Guay, Kelly Vanderbeek and Whistler’s own Manuel Osborne-Paradis. Alpine Canada also set a goal of winning at least four medals at the 2010 Games.

As part of both Whistler’s and Alpine Canada’s preparations for 2010 Whistler is hosting the Pontiac GMC Canadian Championships this week, bringing the best ski racers in the country to Whistler to compete for national titles. The national championships will be back in Whistler again next spring, and at least one more year after that prior to the Games, in order to give Canadian ski racers as many opportunities as possible to become familiar with the courses that will be used during the Olympics.

That familiarity should be an advantage for the home team in 2010. Young skiers like Robbie Dixon, now on the fringe of the national team but expected to be a World Cup regular in the next few years, will have had many more runs on the Olympic courses than will skiers from other nations.

And Whistler should be very familiar with the members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team by 2010. In addition to racing here annually at the national championships, some CAST members are planning to move to Whistler, at least part time, to be as comfortable and prepared as possible for 2010.

The weather this week is, once again, challenging race organizers and playing havoc with the race schedule. The championship downhill races were moved up to Tuesday in anticipation of snow later in the week. As of Tuesday, the championship super G races for women and men are scheduled for Saturday on the Dave Murray Downhill, at 10 a.m. and noon respectively. The awards for the super G will be held at 4 p.m. in the village, followed immediately by a dual slalom above the Garibaldi Lift Co.

The Saturday afternoon dual slalom will see CAST and provincial team members from B.C., race against a similar team from Alberta to determine the best in the West. Meanwhile Ontario and Quebec skiers will go head-to-head to see who represents the East. A final East-West showdown will determine provincial bragging rights for the year. The dual slalom is a fun event and another chance for Whistler to get to know CAST members.

Sunday, the first run of the women’s championship giant slalom is scheduled for 10 a.m. The men’s championship GS gets underway Monday at 10 a.m. National slalom champions will be determined on Tuesday.

Awards ceremonies each day take place at 4 p.m. in the village.

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