World’s best meet in Whistler

Two Salmon Arm skiers will be rubbing shoulders with racers from 18 other countries when they compete in the Whistler Cup this weekend

Fast track: Salmon Arm downhill racer Max Scharf competes at Red Mountain in the giant slalom during U16 Provincials held March 21 to 24.

Fast track: Salmon Arm downhill racer Max Scharf competes at Red Mountain in the giant slalom during U16 Provincials held March 21 to 24.

It’s an event like no other for young downhill ski racers.

Two Salmon Arm skiers will be rubbing shoulders with racers from 18 other countries when they compete in the Whistler Cup this weekend, April 5 to 7.

Max Scharf has qualified to race on the 18-member Team Canada at the exciting event, while Mitch Smith will compete as a member of Team BC.

The Whistler Cup is described as one of the highest-level competitions for young racers and has helped to launch the ski careers of many World Cup stars. It brings together 450 of the best 12- to 15-year-old boys and girls from around the world for three days of super-G, slalom and giant slalom ski racing.

Scharf is already at Whistler Mountain participating in a preparation camp, where the makeup of the Canadian team is being determined. Following the camp, the team will be divided into boys’ and girls’ Team Canada 1, 2 and 3. Selection will be based on a combination of U16 Can-Am results and the racers’ performances at the camp, which will include time trials in super-G, giant slalom and slalom. Scharf was selected to represent Canada based on his first-place win in the slalom at the U16 Can-Am West races at Panorama Mountain in March.

Both boys have had strong seasons.

At U16 Provincials at Red Mountain in Rossland, Smith picked up a third in slalom as well as sixth and ninth in the two giant slalom races.

This will be Scharf’s fourth year at the Whistler Cup – but never before as a member of Team Canada – and Smith’s fifth year, his second as a member of the seven-member Team BC. The boys explain that B.C. skiers can participate in the event as either a member of Team Canada, Team BC or, the third option, Quota BC, all based on results at other races.

Members of Team Canada and other national teams take their runs before the other teams, so the course is in better shape for them.

“It’s going to be nice to get some better results this year,” says Scharf. “It’s been pretty iffy every other year, starting way at the back. It will be nice to get out front.”

Smith says starting farther back necessitates being aggressive.

“You’ve got to go in with an attack attitude from the back. You have nothing to lose, so it’s good.”

The boys share a similar background in skiing.

They both have been racing for nine years, previously at Vernon’s Silver Star Mountain. About five years ago they moved to Revelstoke Mountain and joined the Revelstoke Ski Club.

Asked what they love about downhill ski racing, Smith says: “Mostly the adrenalin. It’s fast.”

Adds Scharf: “I’m a fairly competitive person by nature and it’s a good sport for that, there’s lots of competition. You get that rush.”

They’ve both been clocked racing at over 100 km/hr.

During the season they ski about three days per week and are in the gym two days. They focus on core fitness, as well as legs and upper body – and lots of balance training.

Both boys say they would be happy to crack the top 10 at the Whistler Cup.

Remarks Scharf: “Based on past experience, if I could put two runs together, I could get a top 10. That would be a first and that would be awesome. A good way to end the season.”

Countries that will be represented at the 2013 Whistler Cup are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Russia, South Africa and Serbia.