CORNER BROOK Why is the 41st edition of the annual Marble Cup alpine race series beginning today?
Because the technical camp that precedes it was so beneficial last year, organizers decided it would do the members of the Marble Mountain Alpine Racing Team a world of good to experience it at the beginning of this ski season instead of near the end, in late-February or early-March, when the Marble Cup races have typically been held in previous years.
Last year, the direction of the week-long camp switched from speed to technical precision and coach Steve May described the subsequent improvements in racers’ abilities as “dramatic.”
“There’s more of a focus on slower, shorter radius turns, more like a slalom race,” he said. “We said we need to be able to try this earlier in the season so they can apply what they’ve learned through the rest of the season and the rest of the races.”
Other than the date, not much will have changed with regards to the races themselves, which will feature participation from both Ski Wentworth and Ski Ben Eoin of Nova Scotia, along with Crabbe Mountain and Mont Farlagne of New Brunswick and Brookvale Ski Park of Prince Edward Island.
“We’re fortunate we got a lot of snow and the hill is more or less open,” May said. “The warm weather Sunday and Monday made the hill quite icy in patches, but that’s actually pretty good for racing conditions.”
The three-day event begins this morning with the Giant Slalom race for under-12s and u-14s, followed by a Super G race for u-16s and up in the afternoon. Saturday will see another Giant Slalom race for u-12s and u-14s, with the u-16s and up competing in their Giant Slalom in the afternoon. Sunday’s schedule includes a Slalom race for u-12s and u-14s in the morning, with the u-16s and up taking to the hill for a Slalom race in the afternoon. Race starts vary, but morning races should begin around 10 a.m., while afternoon races will get underway between 12:30 and 1 p.m.
Awards ceremonies will be held for Super G and Giant Slalom races on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the upper level of the ski lodge, while slalom and overall Marble race awards will be distributed on Sunday after the course tear down has been completed. A special honour, the Harvey Bishop Memorial Award, will be presented to the most spirited team.
There are high hopes for the Marble team this winter, thanks in part to the aforementioned technical camp, but also because the 24-member team features 16 returning skiers from last year’s club, along with eight new graduates from the SnowStars program, a training ground of sorts for kids aged 6-11. Race team members are anywhere from 11 to 17 years old.
“The team is skiing very well and showing signs of maturity when it comes to racing and understanding technique and tactics,” May said, noting the effort expended during the camp this week was impressive because of the extremely variable weather.
Monday featured very warm, soft conditions, which was physically challenging for the athletes, while Tuesday and Wednesday was demanding because of the drop in temperature that quickly shifted the conditions from soft to hard.
Once this weekend’s Marble Cup races are in the books, the team is expected have a busy winter, competing in races at Wentworth from Feb. 15-17 and Ben Eoin from March 15-17, while the younger team members are tentatively slated to visit Brookvale from March 2-3.
A specific goal for those involved with the Marble Mountain Alpine Racing Team is to see more of a provincial presence when it comes to racing. It’s noticeable that of the five ski clubs visiting for this weekend’s event, none are from this province.
The hope is that will soon change and there is already evidence of that, specifically in that the Marble team features a racer from Smokey Mountain Ski Club in Labrador City for the first time in many years. Eventually, Smokey Mountain may have its own race team, as it has introduced a SnowStars program this year with about 10 kids registered already. Marble’s SnowStars program has 32 children participating.
“We’re very excited to establish a link between Lab City and Marble,” May said.
There’s also talk of an event at White Hills in Clarenville as a lead-up to the 2014 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games, which will be hosted by that area.
“This is all extremely positive for us,” said May. “We’d love to see races at both those hills that we could attend as a Marble team. It also helps us to have teams come out from White Hills and Lab City to (the Marble Cup) and help grow this event.”
By the time the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C. come around, the aim is to have representation from all three ski clubs on the provincial team. The last two Games have seen just Marble racers represent the province.