Canadians look to home snow advantage at Olympics

Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:35pm EST
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By Steve Keating

WHISTLER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Having spent close to $2 billion on an Olympic Games, you would expect a few perks as host nation, and Canada's Alpine ski team is planning to take full advantage.

The world's best skiers have descended on Whistler mountain this week for a series of World Cup races that will also serve as test events for the Vancouver Olympics and the only opportunity to survey layouts they will not see again for two years.

But while the mighty Austrians, Swiss and other European ski powers will spend the week studying layouts as if they are cramming for exams, Canadian skiers will have two years to learn the subtleties and nuances of the Dave Murray and Franz's Downhill courses.

"It's a huge advantage," former-Crazy Canuck and head of Alpine Canada Ken Read told Reuters. "There's official stuff and then there is unofficial stuff, like having your athletes living in the community, walking up the hill, down the hill.

"The more you know the hill, the more you ski on the hill, the more intimate you become with the hill."

"You've seen athletes literally travel across the world to walk a track," he added.

There are four races scheduled for Whistler, starting with a men's super-G on Thursday followed by a women's downhill on Friday, a men's giant slalom on Saturday and a women's super-combined on Sunday.

The last World Cup race staged at Whistler was a men's super-G in 1995. The resort was later removed from the FIS calendar after poor weather forced the cancellation of races in 1996, 1997 and 1998.   Continued...

<p>Kelly Vanderbeek stands at bottom of hill following the the first day of training at the Women's World Cup Downhill in Whistler, British Columbia February 19, 2008. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>