Winding up for winter 

Popular race, terrain park events back on for the 2008-2009 winter season

With a based of over 50 cm, and more snow falling over the past week winter is very much on everyone’s mind as we count down to the opening day on Nov. 27.

But while skiing and snowboarding are just fine as recreational sports, there are some people who like to go fast, go big, and push themselves to another level — even if it’s just a local competition.

Tune your edges and grind your bases for the return of competitions like the Kokanee Valley Race Series, the Park Rider Sessions, the Atomic Ski and Snowboard races, the King/Queen of the Rails jams. Some test speed, others test style, and some events test both.

All events are amateur, hosted by Whistler-Blackcomb with support from other sponsors for prizes and post contest food and refreshments. They’re usually cheap to enter ($25 to $35), and emphasize participation by offering draw prizes to all the competitors instead of the competitors on the podium. The judged events are usually called by former athletes with a lot of experience in national and international contests, with the exception of the King/Queen of the Rails contest where the athletes judge themselves.

But while it’s all for fun, keep in mind that our local winter events have been stepping stones to the national team for athletes like Dan Raymond, Ryan Rausch, Derek Wintermans, Mercedes Nicoll, Ashleigh McIvor, Davey Barr and others — many of whom will be competing at home in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

So without further ado, here’s how you can get involved in some great events this season, elevate your skiing and riding, and add an edge to your winter.

Kokanee Valley Race Series

This long-running series is for alpine skiing enthusiasts who like to go fast, crash gates, and push their technical skills, and gear, to the limit. Or just like the very social post-race events, where every participant has a chance to win draw prizes like a new pair of Atomic skis. There are also cash prizes in the pro category this year based on participation.

Open to skiers, snowboarders and telemarkers aged 19 and over, this is one of the most representative events in Whistler, with the addition of an 80-plus age category for men a few years ago. The field includes everything from former World Cup skiers, some racing in their former Canadian Alpine Ski Team speed suits, to recreational skiers who enjoy speeding through the gates at the Pontiac Race Centre (opening Dec. 15) and want to step things up a notch. It’s also an excellent way to train gate skiing for the annual Peak to Valley race, which goes from the top of The Saddle to Creekside base.

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