Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Friday Dec.1, 2023.
After a year of anticipation, all lights are green as World Cup giant slalom events get underway at Mont Tremblant. Almost 70 female athletes from 20 countries are here, with six representing Canada. Tremblant has risen to the occasion, thanks to tireless course prep volunteers working on the famed Flying Mile run.
Shops and restaurants are decorated with World Cup banners and national flags are waving everywhere. Many celebrities and ski legends are set to be in the VIP stands. The base area is thrumming with near-constant entertainment, in the form of outdoor concerts, DJs, contests, bib draws and more.
The last time the White Circus came to Tremblant was in 1983, for a women’s downhill. Canadian Laurie Graham won that day and she will be in the crowd this weekend to cheer on the new generation. She’s not the only repeat attendee. We spoke with many volunteers and a few race organizers like Jacko Gratton of the Club de Ski Mont-Tremblant, who was among the crew in 1983.
Things were easier in the old days
“Things were easier in the old days,” says Gratton, hinting at not just a younger body but fewer safety and liability rules to follow.
Gratton has coached some of the best ski racers from the area, such as Melanie Turgeon and Erik Guay. Also in that list and top of mind this weekend is crowd favourite Valérie Grenier. She secured a World Cup GS win last season, Canada’s first by a woman since 1974. That was in addition to many recent top-five finishes, including one last weekend at Killington, Vermont.
Other top contenders for this event include current world champion Mikaela Shiffrin, fresh off 3rd place in GS and 1st place in slalom results at Killington. Last season, Shiffrin became the winningest racer in World Cup history and now sits at 90 victories, while a few veterans like Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami and Sweden’s Sarah Hector promise excitement for the international crowds.
Fans will get a full world-class experience, with two distinct women’s GS races scheduled to restore geographic balance on the FIS calendar—one two-run race on Saturday and the same again on Sunday. Dedicated snowmaking investments are proving their worth, with great snow conditions appearing ready to withstand the busy weekend.
Photographer and long-time local Luc Bombardier has been all over the world shooting and filming skiing, but loves to see this happen at home. He remembers the 1983 event as well, and is happy for the return of elite racers, and all they stand for. “The equipment and coverage have changed, but the passion remains.”