Whistler Nordic venue opening to the public Saturday 

Nordic skiers can get a preview of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Nordic venue Saturday, Dec. 15 as the facility opens to the public for the first time.

The official opening will be in January, once all of the buildings are complete, but the site itself is ready to go according to John Aalberg, director of Nordic Sports for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee (VANOC).

“We’ve been there for a couple of weeks now getting ready for public skiing on the recreational trails, and we have a small competition on Saturday which will be the first test (of the competition trails),” said Aalberg.

The number of trails open this weekend will depend on snowfall, but based on the forecast for more than 50 cm in the Callaghan Valley he believes there will be nearly 30 km of trails open. The facility has four groomers to maintain those trails.

At first the ticket sales and ski rentals will be handled out of temporary buildings, but the road and parking lots are complete.

The prices this year will match the Lost Lake Cross Country Trails, ranging from about $16 for an adult day pass to $224 for a season pass. The Whistler Nordic venue, which will be renamed in the future, is also offering a dual season pass with the Resort Municipality of Whistler that’s accepted at both Lost Lake and the Nordic centre. Early bird passes were $279 for both facilities.

The facility will open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and after the New Year there will be night skiing from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday with 5 km of lit trails. Night skiing may be added on the weekend if there is enough demand, says Aalberg.

“Operationally, we’ll adjust to what we see the needs are,” he said. “We will be very flexible the next few years. We’re really in there to set up for the post-Games legacy as well as the Games themselves, so we’re going to work with the community and skiers to make a great product for 2011.

“We’re really excited about getting recreational skiing here. We’ve waited a long time to open this venue, and I think it will be a tremendous asset to Sea to Sky for outdoor recreation. It’s a great legacy for everyone, as anyone from age 2 to 82 can use it.”

The first event ever will be the first Coast Cup race of the season, which is hosted by the Hollyburn Jackrabbit Cross Country Ski Club with some assistance from Squamish and Whistler volunteers.

Distances range from 0.7 km for the youngest Atom skiers to 6 km for junior racers and adults. Up to eight members of the national Para-Nordic team and 2010 team are also expected to take part.

The deadline for registration was Wednesday, Dec. 12, but organizers are still looking for volunteers to help out. If you can spare some time on Saturday, e-mail Carole Clubb at cdclubb@gmail.com.

As well as amateur skiers, some of Canada’s top Nordic athletes should make their first appearance at the Whistler Nordic Venue by the end of the winter season. The first major event planned is the national ski jumping championship and North American junior championship that get underway on Jan. 2.

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