A steep start, banked turns, drop-offs and jumps will challenge racers in Poley Mountain's first-ever ski cross weekend this Saturday.
Ski cross uses similar terrain features to freestyle skiing — but instead of one skier at a time, as many as four skiers go head-to-head on the course. (Intentional contact with other racers leads to disqualification.) The sport gained popularity as part of the Winter X Games until 2012.
To create the course, Poley Mountain has hired White Industries Ltd., a company specializing in snow sport venue design and event execution that has created courses for the Winter Olympics, Canada Winter Games and other high-profile competitions.
In Sussex, three-quarters of the kilometre-long course uses part of Terrain Park and part of Sidewinder, both among Poley's black-diamond, or advanced, trails.
'It's really fast'
"At last count, we were close to 80 competitors, which is a huge turnout for a very new event," said Janice MacPherson, a board member of Ski New Brunswick.
"A lot of our athletes are keen to try it, and are coming in very excited for the new adventure. There's a growing demand for ski cross."
MacPherson's son, Malcolm Dunphy, will be taking part.
"It's really fast," Dunphy said. "When you're racing slalom, it's the same thing every time, but with ski cross what's happening with the terrain surprises you. It's a lot of fun."
The course qualifies as a sanctioned ski-cross event, which means participants earn points with Alpine Canada, MacPherson said. Sixty of the racers will be attending a camp in advance of the race to prepare — and hopefully catch the ski-cross bug.
"We're hoping we'll eventually have a ski-cross event at Poley on an annual basis," MacPherson said.
Perfect spring skiing
With plenty of snow on the ground and milder temperatures in the forecast, "it looks amazing for the weekend," MacPherson said. "It's very intense and an exciting thing to watch."
The ski cross event gets underway at Poley Mountain on the lower part of Sidewinder at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 18. When the race is over, the course will be open to the public. Awards will be presented following the finals Sunday.