Mont Ste-Marie is hosting a major downhill ski race this weekend, and it's all thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers.
The Nor-Am Cup Finals will see 60 athletes from the Canadian national team hit the slopes, matched by another 60 skiers from the American national team. Ten skiers from other countries will round out the mix.
It was just two years ago that volunteer Raymond Moffatt and others set out to build a new run at the ski hill, about 45 minutes north of Wakefield, Que.
"When we first started this project, we kind of had this kind of race in the gleam of our eye," Moffatt said.
And while Moffatt said he initially thought it might take up to 10 years before the hill could land a competition of this calibre, success came much sooner.
"Stars kind of fell in the right place," he said.
New run honours local ski champion
The skiers will be competing on the new run named after Dustin Cook, a 28-year-old World Cup skier who got his start racing at Mont Ste-Marie.
With 24 Nor-Am Cup podium finishes to his name, Cook brought much more than name recognition to the project.
"Obviously with his experience, he had a lot of input — a lot of opinion — on what we needed to do, what made for a very good race course," said Moffatt, who oversees race timing at Mont Ste-Marie.
"With Dustin's wins and podiums, Mont Ste-Marie is really well-known now," said fellow volunteer Mark Somers, who also serves as the club's alpine director and chief of race with the Nor-Am Finals.
A passion for downhill skiing
Moffatt said the volunteers were brought together by their shared passion for downhill skiing.
"Most of us were racers when we were kids," he said. "We love the fresh air aspect to the sport. We love seeing our kids out there, challenging themselves."
Former members of the Canadian national ski team were also involved in creating the new run.
"What never failed to amaze me was the technical expertise that we have on what it takes to run a race of this calibre," Moffatt said. "The support that came from the hill was just fantastic."
Rivals on the hill, partners off
"We're rivals when we compete against each other," said Moffatt. "But when it came to this project, every single club in the zone made a donation to say, 'Yeah, we're in. Let's get this done.'"
Somers wasn't surprised that clubs from surrounding ski hills pitched in.
"We have a very rich ski racing community in the Outaouais zone, so everybody rallied together to make this project happen," he said. "And they also get to come up and race on Dustin Cook and benefit from it as well."
Competition kicks off Friday with two days of giant slalom races, followed by two days of slalom.
The rest of the ski hill will be open to regular skiers throughout the event.