Dec 1, 2008 | Marmot, Winter 2008

Olympic Teams Like What They Are Seeing Here

The list of teams that have committed to coming to Mount Washington for Olympic training is growing.

The Alpine Resort has received commitments from Canada’s Cross-Country Ski Team, Sweden’s Cross-Country and Biathlon Teams, the Canadian, American, Swedish and Swiss Snowboarding Teams, Resort Director of Business Operations Don Sharpe said.

The Resort was also in discussions with France for their cross-country, snowboarding, biathlon and freestyle teams, Germany’s biathlon team and had received interest from the Swedish Freestyle Team as the Marmot went to press. “It’s been a lot of legwork up to this point,” Sharpe said.

Teams are only now starting to make plans for training prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The Resort made the commitment in 2003 to try and attract international teams to Mount Washington. The commitment fit hand in glove with the creation of the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society and its plans to create a Mountain Sports Facility near Raven Lodge. “The plan’s pretty much gone the way it was supposed to go,” Sharpe said.

Canadian ski teams have been visiting Mount Washington for the past 10 years: junior development teams, the main national teams, cross-country, biathlon and snowboarding teams. “Last year was the first year we had the snowboard team,” Sharpe said.

“They were great. They went out with a group of kids and ripped up the terrain.”

Sharpe credits the Canadian Snowboard Team with drawing international teams to Mount Washington.

“The one surprise is the snowboard teams. The Canadian Team was here last spring. They found out about us through all the work we’ve done. They talked to the U.S. Team, they talked to the Swedes,” Sharpe added.

Mount Washington is an ideal place for the snowboarding teams to train prior to the Olympics because their race events are near the end of the Games, and the Resort is close by.

“The terrain we have on the Sunrise Chair is perfect for racing,” Sharpe said.

Peter Reinebo, Head of the National Olympic Committee in Sweden, says Mount Washington offers the best facilities closest to the Olympic sites, and the climate is similar to Whistler.

Although there are other resorts that are more accessible – no ferries, no flights necessary – the tipping point for him to choose Mount Washington was the hospitality the staff offers.

“We are coming with cross-country, biathlon, snowboard, alpine and freestyle moguls (teams),” Reinebo said in an e-mail interview.

Reinebo has been to Mount Washington three times already – twice in the summer of 2006 and once in the winter of 2007 – but says besides some of Team Sweden’s coaches, the team members have yet to visit the Resort. They’ll be here in 2009, though, in preparation for the 2010 Olympics.

“This is a tremendous win for the Comox Valley and Mount Washington,” President Peter Gibson said in a statement.

“There will be 40 to 60 athletes in the camps along with additional support staff. We are thrilled that our facilities and the region surpassed their expectations and needs.”

In return for the teams agreeing to use Mount Washington as their pre-Olympic training facility, the Resort will bring in a facility for waxing near the Sunrise Chairlift. “If we haven’t built our Sports Centre by then, we’ll put together a fitness centre for them,” Sharpe added.

Sharpe expects the Resort will see quite a few Paralympic teams come to train, especially after they check out the facilities for the International Paralympic Committee’s World Cup event coming in March 2009. “I think we’re going to see a significant amount of Paralympic teams,” he said.

One of the competitive advantages teams will have in training at Mount Washington, for the biathlon portion of the Paralympic Games anyway, is that the targets slated for Olympic use will be used at Mount Washington before being shipped to Whistler’s Callaghan Valley in time for Paralympic events, Sharpe added.

Although he is pleased with the Resort’s success in attracting international teams, Sharpe said their work is not done. “We’re still looking for other teams, too. We’re getting calls from people asking for information.”

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