*Article courtesy of Rick MacDonnel at snowseeker.ca.
BANFF, AB – Racers barrel down the course four-abreast, navigating turns, jumps, and bumps ... and, at times, each other. The concept is fairly simple: first one down wins.
Ski and Snowboard Cross took the snow-minded world by storm this past February during the Olympic Games in Vancouver. Its high-octane action opened a lot of eyes in this part of the country, prompting the folks at Lake Louise Ski Area to start production on a brand new ski and snowboard cross course, the first and only one in Alberta.
"There wasn't any interest in building the park before the Olympics. The decision to set this up was 100% influenced by the reception it got in Vancouver," said Jim Courtney, a member of the Board of Directors for the Evolve Ski and Snowboard Club in Calgary and the Bow Valley.
An Evolve-ing Lake Louise
The course is set to launch in the middle of January (weather permitting), after the World Cup race rolls through Lake Louise in December. Once the race is over, the crew will go into full production so that the cross course is ready to go for both Evolve members and the public alike.
Evolve is the result of a joint venture between the Sunshine Snowboard Club, the Rocky Mountain Military Snowboard Club, and the Alberta Freeskiers. Its a broad-spectrum club for junior and intermediate-level ski and snowboard athletes looking to develop Ski Cross (SX) and Snowboard Cross (SBX) skills. At the same time, it's also a high-performance club for advanced SX and SBX athletes.
"Evolve is a club that lets members explore Snow Cross, All Mountain Free Skiing, and snowboarding at Lake Louise, COP, and more. But having a venue like this at Lake Louise will allow families to experience a whole new sport that's come along recently."
The podium at the 2010 Snowboard Cross Canadian Nationals - Photo courtesy of Adam Robertson
What to expect
The "cross" course is an action packed highway of features that skiers and snowboarders of all ages can challenge themselves (and their friends) with in a new, fun mountain experience. The course will be laid out similar to a Motocross or BMX Track with multiple features from top to bottom. A horse race-style start gate will corral the racers as they all start together, facing off with each other.
The course will be public runnable, with rollers, bumps, and turns, but nothing that moms and dads with kids can't use.
"Anybody can go down. If you can stand up on your snowboard or skis, you can go down the course. But safety's our number one priority. For anyone who's looking to put in the training, Evolve has 16 different programs designed for all levels."
For more info on Evolve and its programs, visit http://evolvessx.com/.
Alberta's one and only
Lake Louise is already set to host the Canadian Snowboard Nationals this April. No World Cup dates have been confirmed as of yet, but only because the scheduling for World Cup events is locked in place two to three years ahead of time.
"We're very optimistic that the cross course is going to give Lake Louise a big lift. For skiers and boarders, there's so much competition in this part of the province, what with the Kootenays being so close, as well as the other Alberta resorts. But now Albertans only have one hill that has a ski and snowboard cross track in their back yard."
There are three SX and SBX courses in British Columbia: Whistler, Cypress, and Big White. Rossland is also known to set up temporary courses for special events. But the course at Lake Louise will offer a unique opportunity for Albertans
"This will be a really good opportunity to get better athlete training here in Canada. Even though the course is public runnable, we'll be closing it off for club training and competitions, when guys can go full bore. We'll close the course, then build it up to high standards to make it more technical and difficult."