NorAm a springboard to World Cup

Racing Friday and Saturday

Ski cross racing has gone from a fringe sport to the hugely popular Winter X Games to a spot on the international stage at the Winter Olympics.

And that’s what makes this weekend’s NorAm Cup at Red Mountain another step in the growth of the sport.

With the top young racers from Alberta and B.C. competing alongside some international entries, the chance to move to the next level is just as enticing as standing on the top of the podium this weekend.

Canadians Tristan Tafel and Catriona Blair, who will be racing this weekend, lead the NorAm standings and already have World Cup starts under their belts.

“The top person in Canada, in the male and female (NorAm) categories, qualifies to start in World Cup,” explained Chad Weir, director of national programs and events for Canada Ski Cross.

Blair is coming off a pair of World Cup races in Switzerland while Tafel competed at a World Cup race in Ontario.

Weir explained it’s the first step towards reaching the national team.

“Both of them could be earning World Cup spots and national team spots next year,” he said. “They get invited to summer camps and if they measure up the national team coaches will take them on.”

While there’s a healthy contingent of men competing this weekend – 22 – the small field of five female racers may soon be a thing of the past.

“We’re lucky to get five,” admitted Weir. “But that door will close really quickly and we’ll literally see hundreds of girls next year. We’ve got two spots open on national team and two development spots that are available.”

Those doors opened after the announcement last summer adding ski cross to the national alpine program. That association allows the ski cross racers to access training facilities and technical help available at the national level.

NorAm racing goes today and Saturday at Red Mountain. The qualifying runs will begin each day at 11 a.m. followed by the finals at 1 p.m.

Sunday will feature the Ski Cross Showdown at 12:30 p.m. offering a variety of age groups and categories.