The set up at Mont-Tremblant is already making an impression on some of the world’s top alpine skiers.
For the first time since 1983, the Laurentians ski resort is hosting a World Cup event with women’s giant slalom races on deck for Saturday and Sunday.
Tremblant replaces Lake Louise, Alta., as the Canadian women’s stop on the World Cup circuit, and one thing that stands out so far among athletes is that each run finishes right in the centre of the village.
“That makes it pretty special because everything is going to be there,” said top Canadian medal hope Valerie Grenier, who’s from St. Isidore, Ont., but also calls Mont-Tremblant home.
Grenier says that will contribute to what many expect to be an exciting atmosphere this weekend.
“The crowd is going to be so good,” she said. “In Killington [Vermont], for example, it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere where you end up, so it’s hard [for fans] to get there. Then for Tremblant, I think that’s why it’s going to be so bumping because it’s right in the village.
“It’s gonna be pretty sick.”
Sarah Bennett of Stoneham, Que., has skied at Mont-Tremblant every year since she was 12.
The 22-year-old says she’s never seen a competition set up quite like it in her young career, and expects other skiers to be surprised by the “hard core” fans in this part of the country.
“To compare it to something, I would say it’s kind of like Monaco for F1 racing,” said Bennett. “People are going to be in their condos just watching the race even if they didn’t even have to buy tickets.”
Cassidy Gray of Panorama, B.C., and Britt Richardson of Canmore, Alta., round out the national team skiers this weekend, while Justine Clement of Stoneham, Que., and Justine Lamontagne of Mont Sainte-Anne, Que., will also compete for Canada.
The field includes two-time Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States. She extended her own record with a 90th World Cup victory by skiing to gold in slalom last weekend in Killington.
On a more practical level, the alpine superstar appreciates the proximity of the village to the hill, especially in a demanding World Cup circuit with lots of travel.
“I think it’s wonderful to race in places where the race slope and the mountain are so close to the accommodations where we stay,” said Shiffrin in her pre-race news conference. “It’s really nice for us to be able to just walk out the door, walk onto the ski slopes and then do our work in that way.
“It’s really exciting to come to a new place.”
SHIFFRIN’S PRAISE FOR GRENIER
Shiffrin, one the most decorated alpine skiers of all time, has a lot of time for Grenier and what she can do on the hill. “I’m just a big fan of amazing skiing,” Shiffrin said. The 28-year-old from Edwards, Colo., remembers Grenier skiing to gold in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, in January for the Canadian’s first World Cup podium. The victory snapped a run of five straight wins for Shiffrin. “I was like … nobody can ski faster than that,” Shiffrin said. “That was amazing.” Grenier is just grateful to share the course with an all-time great like Shiffrin. “I don’t think I would ever call this a rivalry,” she said jokingly while sitting next to Shiffrin at the news conference. “It’s great to have the chance to ski amongst Mikaela, I guess like in the same era as her, because I can definitely get inspired by you.”
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
For many Canadian skiers, it’s their first time competing in a World Cup on home soil. With that comes a level of attention they’re not quite used to. “The energy is really great, also a little bit chaotic,” Bennett said. “The media is super interested, everyone wants to see us, families coming so everyone’s trying to have a little bit of our time. There’s definitely a lot more eyes of us instead of typical race over in Europe where people don’t normally realize we exist.”