2013-14 Freestyle season gets going with back-to-back Nakiska SX World Cups
With positive snow-control reports, cold temperatures, and clear skies in the forecast, it looks like it's all systems go for Audi FIS Freestyle World Cup ski cross action to return to the slopes of Canada's Nakiska resort for back-to-back races on December 6th and 7th.
While the 2013-14 Freestyle World Cup season officially got underway in August with halfpipe and slopestyle competitions in Cardrona, NZL, the Nakiska event will be the first Freestyle event of the winter in the Northern Hemisphere - and the first test of the season for ski cross athletes who will be pushing hard to score top results early as we move towards the January 20th cut-off of the Olympic qualification period for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
Last year, the results at Nakiska set the tone for the entire season. The Swiss team came out gunning, with Fanny Smith and Armin Niederer claiming the respective ladies' and men's races while Alex Fiva placed 2nd behind Niederer. By season's end the Swiss would claim the ski cross Nations Cup, while Smith and Fiva would each claim a Crystal Globe as the top ladies' and men's competitor, respectively.
Niederer, for his part, would finish the season ranked 2nd amongst all skiers on the men's side.
However, the host Canadian team will no doubt have something to say about any perceived Swiss ownership of the Nakiska track. Relegated to being the 3rd-overall nation in the 2012-13 year-end rankings after several straight years of ski cross dominance, the Canadians – led by the resurgent Chris Del Bosco and 2013 World Championships silver medallist Marielle Thompson – will be looking to make a statement on home soil in the first races of the season.
Other athletes to watch out for include a number of French skiers; ladies' legend and 2012-13 2nd overall skier Ophelie David continues to defy age and placed 2nd at Nakiska last season, while Jean-Frederic Chapuis, her teammate on the men's side, closed out last season by winning the World Championships in Voss, NOR, before scoring a 3rd place and a victory at back-to-back season-ending races in Are, SWE.
As is always the case with ski cross, though, anything can happen on race day. With a field of 125 skiers already registered for the season's first races and the aforementioned motivation of an elusive Olympic berth compelling them, you can expect that all athletes on hill on Friday will be pushing hard from the first drop of the gate. While the Olympic qualification period has been in full swing since last year, the new World Cup season has the feel of clean slate, and as of right now, everyone is tied at the top of the leaderboard.
However, that's all about to change come Friday. And on a widened Nakiska track, with 2006 and 2010 Olympic cross course builder Jeff Ihaksi on hand to lead the construction, we should be in for a treat to start the ski cross season.
After back-to-back races in Nakiska the FIS Freestyle ski cross World Cup will move to Alps for a race in Val Thorens, FRA.
Visit the official Nakiska ski cross World Cup page HERE.