The top women skiers in the world are converging on Panorama ski resort this weekend for a pair of World Cup races in what will be a testing ground ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The resort in western Canada's Purcell Mountain range will host a International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup women's giant slalom today followed by the season's second slalom race tomorrow.
It is the first World Cup races at Panorama Mountain Village in 15 years since the men and women competed in the 1992 Labatt Blue World Tour event.
The only other World Cup races held in Panorama was a men's downhill and super giant slalom in 1985.
This week's two women's races will be a more closely scrutinized than normal because Canada is slated to stage the next Winter Games in Vancouver in just over two years.
FIS gave the official go ahead for the Panorama races on Monday and organizers have been taking advantage of cold, dry temperatures to accelerate the snow making in order to get the hill ready for today.
"The snow is fast and perfect for ski racing," said Todd Partington, Panorama's snowmaking director.
Organizers have spent the last four weeks preparing the course and in the last week a crew of 17 has been working 24 hours a day making snow and grooming runs. There are about 70 snow making machines on the hill.
The course that the ladies technical teams will compete on is made up of two runs, Hay Fever and Old Timer. The pitches on Hay Fever are so steep that grooming machines have to be held by giant cables so they can climb the hill.
"The slalom event will be fantastic," said Dusan Grasic, Alpine Canada's program director said. "It is a brand new run on the circuit so the racers haven't had a chance to ski it before. No slalom event is more challenging because Hay Fever is much steeper than what racers are used to on slalom runs."
Racers will have the complete run of the Panorama facility because the ski hill doesn't open to the public until Dec. 7.