Early season turns

RACE TRAINING: Thirty-five teams are using the Nancy Greene International Training Centre.
RACE TRAINING: Thirty-five teams are using the Nancy Greene International Training Centre. – Photo by SPR

If the village seemed a little busier than it usually is in mid-November, that likely had something to do with the burgeoning alpine ski racing scene at Sun Peaks.
Vincent Lafontaine, the resort’s sports director, said there are 35 teams enjoying the Nancy Greene International Training Centre facilities this year, up from 29 in 2014 and about 20 in 2013.
“It gets the word out that we’re a ski racing mountain,” Lafontaine said. “It also gets the word out that we have consistent snow very early in the season. Not everyone can say that.”
The centre opened on Nov. 9 and teams from across the world are expected to conduct training on the OSV run until Dec. 17.
Teams from Whistler, Grouse and Cypress mountains, among many other B.C. groups, will join outfits from Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Washington state and Japan, with about 675 athletes expected to spend time in the village, along with coaches, family and friends.
“It’s also good for the community as well, all the business, from restaurants to accommodation to the mountain, at a time where there really wouldn’t be anybody here. It’s two or three weeks of good business and traffic,” Lafontaine said.
“We have lots of teams from Ontario and have for years.”
In what would be another coup for the resort, the Alpine Canada ski cross team is considering making Sun Peaks its official training mountain.
“We’re working on that. They’re coming mid-December for a training camp, so we’ll be building a ski cross course for them,” Lafontaine said.
“They’ve come here before and they’re coming back in full force. We’ll most likely run a qualifier event for the national team here, too. That’s pretty exciting for us.”
Aidan Kelly, sales and marketing director for Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR), said staff pay special attention to maintaining the OSV run.
“We put a lot of grooming work and snowmaking work into it to make sure it’s in prime racing condition,” Kelly said. “Some of the different teams will have different requirements for the pack of the snow, so there’s definitely some extra work that goes into the grooming and maintenance.”
The race centre remains open throughout the season, but most teams leave the resort by mid-December to start competition.
It was the 2010 Olympic Winter Games that spurred Sun Peaks’ ski racing reputation, as international teams opted to use the training facilities before chasing gold in Whistler.
“The Austrian national team trained at Sun Peaks in the years leading up to the Games and established Sun Peaks’ reputation,” said Darcy Alexander, vice-president and general manager at SPR.
“Since that time, teams from across Canada and the U.S. have chosen to
train here.”
The teams rely on the work of Sun Peaks’ work crews, tasked with making snow since
late October.
“Combined with recent natural snow and extensive mountain preparation, Sun Peaks is able to offer excellent early season conditions,” said Erik Meertens, director of mountain operations.
The Whistler Mountain Ski Club, coached by three-time Canadian Olympian alpine ski racer Rob Boyd, is among the teams training at Sun Peaks, as is Team B.C. and the B.C. para-alpine squad.

Photo by SPR
Photo by SPR

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