The National Ski Cross Championships kicked off on Hudson Bay Mountain with racers competing in qualifiers and FIS races Tuesday afternoon.
Thirty-two racers competed in 14 heats under perfect conditions on the new course carved out under the Prairie T-bar.
In the big final, national ski cross racer Dave Duncan was the first-place finisher.
“It was fun coming out here to a new location,” he said. “The course here has incredible potential and I look forward to coming back again soon.”
Fellow Canadian national ski cross racer Chris Del Bosco came in second.
Brady Leman finished first in the small final, followed by Tristan Tafel.
Jason Oliemans is the only local ski cross racer to compete in the junior national races this year.
Tuesday afternoon, Oliemans finished third in his heat and in the middle of the pack overall.
“There was a lot of competition and some really fast skiers, but I think I skied well. I’m hoping to just keep getting faster the rest of the week,” he said. “I think I can be cleaner and quicker in some areas.”
He noted that skiing on familiar terrain gives him an advantage.
“Some of the features which have been there all year, I’ve been able to train and work on and figure out the perfect line on it. As well as it’s always nice to be comfortable on your own hill,” he said.
Heading into tomorrow, Oliemans’ mindset it simple.
“Just go out give it everything I have and see how far I can go. I’m going to have to wax up my skis good tonight and once you’re in the gate, give it all you got,” he said.
Dozens of people stopped to watch the races and cheer on their favourite athletes as well.
According to Philippe Bernier, co-chair of the event, the championships got off to a smooth start.
“It was a blue bird day, excellent weather and everything co-operated for us and I think the athletes really liked it,” said Bernier. “In terms of how well it could have gone, I think we accomplished what we needed to do. Now we can improve for tomorrow and the next day.”
He said the track is deteriorating in some areas due to the traffic, but they’re going to redo some patches to ensure it will be ready for tomorrow’s races.
The junior nationals start Wednesday around 10 a.m. and run until roughly 3 p.m., followed by the national championship races on Thursday.