CANMORE – Three years since the cross-country skiing world cup was cancelled in Canmore, the top circuit competition is officially returning next winter with additional information being released this week.
For the first time in eight years, the world’s best skiers will be coming to Alberta when the COOP FIS Cross-Country World Cup arrives Feb. 9-13, 2024, featuring three race days in Canmore and one day in Calgary.
After years of planning, the Alberta World Cup Society (AWCS) made it official last week with the Canmore Nordic Centre being the main hub for the competition.
“We can put together the best race course here,” said Norbert Meier, events chair at AWCS. “It’s truly one of the world’s best nordic sites.”
Of the four races, two days are set aside for sprint races that involve heats until the fastest skiers race in the final. The first sprint is Friday (Feb. 9) in Canmore for the kick-off race of world cup, which will likely be classic technique.
The second sprint is Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 13) at Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park, which organizers anticipate will attract thousands to the downtown course.
The Calgary course will be better suited for skate technique because it will require less snow to put in tracks, and currently, organizers are in talks with WinSport to have snow made at Calgary Olympic Park and then trucked into Prince’s Island Park.
Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 10-11) are going to be longer distance races at the Canmore Nordic Centre – one classic, one skate. The length of each will be determined in spring.
“We think in terms of distances we’ll use the same course we had in 2016," said Meier. "It’s just a question on whether we’ll use the 3.3-km [loop] versus the 3.75-km [loop] and those distances are all going to be decided with the ski federation (FIS) by the beginning on May.”
The expectation is that the skiers from the 20 or so nations regularly on the world cup will compete.
The world cup was cancelled in Canmore three years ago in March 2020, only seven days out, due to the uncertainty involving the rapidly evolving state of COVID-19. Many major sports leagues and organizations shut down and suspended action across the world throughout that month.
One year after, the AWCS organizers were planning to bring the world cup back to Canmore and Alberta.
“It’s exciting to give the Canadian athletes the home field advantage they otherwise never have,” said Meier. “It makes a difference in how they come to the start line. That’s why we do it.”
Previously, the world cup stopped in Canmore back in March 2016.
Stéphane Barrette, CEO of Nordiq Canada, said Canada hosting high-profile international events is crucial for the development of the nation’s skiers.
“International teams are used to WC organizations of the highest standards in Canada and once again we can guarantee that the AWCS and its partners will put on not only a great competition, but also a great show,” said Barrette in a media release. “We are grateful to have another opportunity to partner with FIS in hosting these World Cups next February to continue building the profile of cross-country skiing around the World.”