Speed ski events return

Those bullets blasting down Headwalls ski run are actually humans and some of them are vying for World Cup titles.

The Velocity Challenge, FIS World Cup of Speed Skiing and So You Think You’re Fast, Eh? events will return to the resort from March 4 to 8.

“These guys are stars overseas and we want them to be stars here,” event organizer Scott Coleman said. “I think a lot of North Americans aren’t familiar with who these folks are. We’ll have both world-record holders here.”

Ivan Origone holds the men’s record for maximum velocity, 254.958 kilometres per hour, and Valentina Greggio is the world’s fastest female speed skier, having clocked in at 247.083 km/h. Both Italians set those marks in Vars, France, last March.

More World Cup racers are expected in Sun Peaks this year than in 2016 due to changes in the circuit’s event schedule.

Two stops in Austria have been cancelled for sponsorship reasons, meaning more World Cup races will be squeezed into the three scheduled pit stops in 2017 — Sun Peaks, along with Idre, Sweden, and Grandvalira/Grau Roig, Andorra.

For the past 12 years, there have been two World Cup events held at the Sun Peaks stop. This year, there will be three.

“Having three World Cups, the incentive is you pretty much have to be here if you’re planning to win the World Cup title and collect the Crystal Globe in Sweden,” Coleman said.
The second annual So You Think You’re Fast, Eh? event on March 4 will double as an unofficial training day for World Cup and Velocity Challenge entrants.

“Every year, we’ve had new people coming to the World Cup,” Coleman said. “We felt it was important to give all of them a little bit of a training day and it gives us a chance to vet them and make sure they’re capable of moving into the World cup the next day.”

There were about 27 skiers who took to the hill last year at the inaugural So You Think You’re Fast, Eh?, a day designed for non-FIS registered skiers to try their hand at the sport, using only the lower half of Headwalls to limit speeds.

Kenny Dale holds the Sun Peaks course record, 178.22 km/h. Skiers at So You Think You’re Fast, Eh? often register close to 125 km/h.

There are two categories for the Velocity Challenge and World Cup races — production, which only requires regular FIS-certified gear, such as a helmet and ski suit, and Speed 1, which calls for the full rubber suit, fairings and Darth Vader-like helmet.

Coleman was pleased to hear there will be more women competing in the Speed 1 category this year, with five or six expected to attend, including some from Sweden and France.
Sun Peaks is the national hub for speed skiing as it’s the only Canadian resort capable of holding an FIS World Cup Speed Skiing event.

World Cup and Velocity Challenge races start at about 10 a.m. each day, weather-permitting, and draw racers and spectators from across the globe.

There were participants from Virginia and Japan last year, along with the regular European crowd, some just getting their thrills at the bucket-list competition and others in pursuit of the overall World Cup titles, which come along with the Crystal Globe trophies.

Greggio and Simone Origone, (Ivan’s brother) are the reigning World Cup champions. Ivan was runner-up on the men’s side in 2016.

“There’s a lot of challenges in terms of weather and the track and making sure we have perfect conditions to pull it off, but we feel great about it,” Coleman said. “We’re looking forward to a great event.”

For details go to velocitychallenge.com.