Canmores cross-country World Cup will cater to fans
By: Justin Brisbane
| Posted: Thursday, Oct 18, 2012 06:00 am
In less than two months, Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Chandra Crawford and Dasha Gaiazova will face off against the best cross-country skiers in the world and World Cup organizers want to ensure fans will get a better look at this year’s talent.
While final plans are coming together, Ken Hewitt wants to assure fans they’ll be a priority at this year’s event.
“For 2012, we wanted to make the races more viewer-friendly,” said Hewitt, organizer of the Alberta World Cup. “Our facility and all three races will be spectator-friendly.”
More than 20 countries have confirmed their participation in the event and by Nov. 1, organizers will know if stars such as Dario Cologna, Petter Northug and Kikkan Randall will compete. Since many of the Canadian races are short, many top distance racers could stay home.
The Canadian team will be finalized the weekend prior to the event with a NorAm race at the Canmore Nordic Centre, although several racers appear to be a lock, such as Kershaw, Harvey and Ivan Babikov for the men and Crawford, Gaiazova and Perianne Jones for the women. Several younger racers should also get a chance to compete.
Following successful races in 2008 and 2010, organizers wanted fans to get closer to the action and have better views of the finish and create a greater sense of excitement around the course.
“We weren’t completely happy with the spectator areas in 2008, so for 2012, we added an area at the end of the stadium for fans called the spectator zone,” Hewitt said. “Race announcers will be on stage and visible to the spectators, and we’ve increased our video by adding a 12-by-21-foot screen, almost twice as big as the last one. We’ll also use two other screens to display times and results.”
They’ve also added a children’s play area to ensure a family-friendly atmosphere around the event, which could draw 3,000 people a day.
Organizers are fortunate all of the races are viewer friendly. The courses have been changed to allow spectators to see much more of the race and the tactics on display.
“The finish line has been moved. In 2010, as the racers approached the finish, they disappeared behind the day lodge, so we fixed that. It was also too hard to read results on the video screen, so we added the bigger screen,” Hewitt said.
The Saturday sprint race will be different from the one Chandra Crawford conquered in 2010 and the entire course will be visible from the stands, while other races have several short loops. Racing will begin on Dec. 10 with the women’s 10 kilometre mass start, followed by the men’s 15 km mass start. Sunday, the men and women will partake in the 15 km and 30 km skiathlon, which combines classic and skate technique. Each race will be held on short loops.
“There’s a fair number of the public who think ski racing is the same as it was 20 years ago – where the skiers race into the woods and don’t come back for an hour. But the sport has changed so much, especially with sprinting. These races will be on short loops so the spectators can see and feel that passion.”
There will be no downtown snow track this year, as there was little appetite to pave Main Street with snow two weeks before the busy holiday period. The Nordic Centre, however, will be given a Christmas flavour, as will much of the downtown core.
“With the Christmas timeframe, we will follow that theme downtown. There will ribbons in the trees and the Nordic Centre will have a large Christmas tree,” Hewitt said.
The event will be broadcast by CBC TV in English and by RDS in French.