The Whistler Cup celebrated its 25th anniversary this weekend (April 13 to 16) by welcoming over 440 of the world’s top young skiers to test their skills on the resort’s slopes.
As North America’s largest youth ski racing event, the event drew skiers aged 11 to 16 from over 20 countries — including Turkey, Japan, and the Netherlands, to name just a few.
“We had a couple of high profile teams returning after a few years absence, notably Switzerland, France and the U.S. came back,” explained Whistler Cup administrator Christine Cogger.
Facing such high-level competition in their home country is particularly special for the Canadian skiers, Cogger said. “Normally you would expect that to have this level of competition, they would have to travel to either Europe or South America, and so it’s pretty special for them to be able to do this on home soil and be the hosts.”
“That’s what this event is about, to introduce skiers from all over the world not only to Whistler and our event, but also to each other,” she added.
But despite the heavy international presence, local athletes still managed to claim top results.
Whistler’s Kaila Lafreniere, competing in the U14 category, had a successful weekend, starting off with an eighth-place finish in Friday’s slalom before claiming the silver in Saturday’s dual slalom big final, falling short to Australia’s Penelope Hughes. Lafreniere capped off the event with a sixth-place finish in the giant slalom on Sunday.
On the men’s side, Whistler Mountain Ski Club U16 racer Nathan Romanin, competing for Team BC 1, started off the week with a bronze medal in the opening super G, followed by a fifth-place finish in Saturday’s slalom race.
“I didn’t set many expectations for myself but I can say I’m proud of what I did this weekend even with the varying conditions,” Romanin said. “Soft spring conditions made it a very tough race for people with later bib numbers like myself. Knowing how to ski ruts was a key factor this weekend and I feel skiing at Whistler has definitely taught me a little about that.”
While the Squamish native said competing at home comes with its own set of pressures, he adds that his in-depth knowledge of the race course also provided an advantage. “I have trained and raced it a few times this year so that certainly helped,” he explained. “I knew where rolls and compressions affected your time the most so I made sure to utilize that.”
WMSC’s Gigi Kranjc, competing for Slovenia in the U16 division, also posted a series of strong runs, finishing the weekend with a top result of fifth place in the opening day’s super G.
“I wanted to have one top 10 finish… so the first day when I came down into fifth I was really happy,” Kranjc said. “It really let me know that I could actually ski that fast and compete with all the top-level athletes from everywhere else in the world.”
Other strong results for the Whistler contingent include Maja Woolley’s 10th-place finish in the U16 ladies’ slalom, Kieran Harley in seventh in the U16 men’s slalom, Jaden Dawson (fifth) and Sarah Stiel (eighth) in the U14 ladies’ dual slalom, and BC 1’s Matthias Shorter finishing eighth in the U14 men’s slalom.
Switzerland took the overall win, knocking two-time defending champion Norway to second place, followed by the Canadians in third.
The successful weekend couldn’t have gone as smoothly as it did without the nearly 300 volunteers who battled weather and logistics to make sure the event went off without a hitch, Cogger said. “We were lucky we got every race completed — we didn’t have to cancel anything, so that’s pretty awesome.
Without question, it’s all down to the awesome crew of volunteers we had,” she said. “They’re loading the lifts at 6:30 in the morning, they’re raking, they’re shoveling, they’re dyeing — they’re doing everything to get the race off successfully. Without them, we would be nowhere.”