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N.B. hosts 1st international alpine race since 1992, attracts 80 athletes from several countries

Eighty athletes from across Canada, the United States, Spain, Italy and Ireland are competing at Crabbe Mountain this weekend. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)
Eighty athletes from across Canada, the United States, Spain, Italy and Ireland are competing at Crabbe Mountain this weekend. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)

Crabbe Mountain is hosting the first International Ski and Snowboard Federation alpine ski race in New Brunswick since 1992.

Organizers say this weekend's event is helping young athletes make their mark on the world stage.

"This is huge for our athletes and for our province," said Andrew Arsenault, the lead U14, U16 and U18 ski coach at Poley Mountain in Waterford, near Sussex.

Eighty athletes from across Canada, the United States, Spain, Italy and Ireland are skiing the province's slopes this weekend, with races happening until Sunday.

The event took about five years to plan, says Michele Leger, the director of coach education with Ski N.B.

"It really is quite significant," she said.

World of skiing

Arsenault said athletes range in age from 16 years to university-aged. Athletes are competing in "fifth level" races, he said, meaning they are ranked using a worldwide rating system. Before reaching the fifth level, they are ranked using divisional or regional rating systems.

This means that athletes will be able to tell where they stand in the sport on a global scale.

Arsenault said it "opens up the world to these athletes."

Listen | Michele Leger with Ski N.B. shares the work that went into prepping for an international ski competition: 

Leger isn't certain why New Brunswick hasn't hosted the race since 1992, but said a couple of key sponsors previously walked away from the event.

The weather on Thursday and Friday was great for skiers — but, even if it takes a turn for the worse over the weekend, Crabbe Mountain has a great snowmaking group that will keep the slopes in peak condition, she said, so athletes will likely be able to continue competing regardless of what the weather has in store.

"We can run in less than ideal conditions," she said.

She said Crabbe Mountain skiers who aren't competing can watch the races from the slopes. She said a lot of people enjoy watching from the chairlift, because it runs right next to the race hill.

Crabbe Mountain still continues to operate despite a lack of winter weather.
Crabbe Mountain still continues to operate despite a lack of winter weather.

Organizers say the event took around five years to plan. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Leger has coached some of the skiers competing this weekend.

"Watching them at this level is very, very, very rewarding for me," she said.

Arsenault coached and trained several of the athletes competing this weekend. He said lot of his students start taking lessons at six or eight years old, so he's been able to watch them grow to be competitive and successful athletes.

He said one of his former students is competing at Crabbe this weekend with the National Ski Academy based in Ontario, and placed fourth overall on Friday and second in the U18 category.

His former student was just eight years old when Arsenault coached him.

"Every day is emotional," he said. "Just seeing the smiles and seeing them enjoy the sport is amazing."