Barrels & Berms Snowboard Cross World Cup event at Big White

Big White hosts World Cup

Sarita Patel

Big White Ski Resort hosted the FIS Snowboard World Cup this weekend, hosting athletes from across the globe to participate in the Inaugural Barrels & Berms event.

This is the first time the event has been held in Canada in thirteen years, featuring the best snowboard cross athletes from sixteen countries.

"The magic of it is that you get athletes from all over the world and they get to come to your home mountain - that means the locals get to see the best of the best," says Michael J. Ballingal, senior vice president of Big White Ski Resort.

Ballingal compared the weekend to hosting the Indy 500, a Formula-1 or Olympic event in Kelowna's backyard.

"It feels really good, I'm nearing the end of my career so it's nice to finally do an event at home," laughs Kevin Hill, a snowboard cross athlete from Vernon, B.C. 

"Family and friends can come out for the first time, usually, I tell them to stay home and not travel."

Hill landed the 23rd spot after Friday's qualification rounds and finished the weekend with the 8th spot in the men's final.

Fellow Canadian Eliot Grondin of Sainte-Marie Quebec won the silver medal on Saturday. 

The 18-year-old led the field of four though all of his heats progressing thrillingly with Canadian teammate and good friend Hill fighting into second behind him. Both made it to the final rounds. 

Grondin won the semi sending him to the Big Final, whereas Hill slipped into a close third sending him through to the small final. 

Grondin’s result has pushed him up the FIS SBX World Tour ranking to 3rd position.

"British Columbia is one of our strongest provinces in snowboard cross, from Meryeta, Tess to Kevin - we have amazing riders coming from this province. Also, we have a few riders from Quebec... they're a stong province as well. It's just incredible just seeing those athletes competing together... teaming up for Team Canada," says Roberto Montanes, sport development manager at Canada Snowboard. 

While Prince George native Meryeta O’Dine captured the 8th spot after Friday's qualifications and placed 10th in the women's final, while Kelowna native Tess Critchlow finished 17th.
Hosting the World Cup gives more Canadians a chance to compete because they get additional qualification spots as it's being held in Canada. 

"We also had a change of format of the event because of the lack of snow in Europe actually, so we've put on a second World Cup here. Sunday is an additional World Cup, so all of the Canadians and larger teams will end up with two World Cup results out of this event," explains Richard Hegarty, communications manager for Snowboard Canada. 

"I'm very excited because we are already losing an event in the year, so to bring one back and have two World Cups back-to-back it's more time to shine for the individual athlete," says Hill. 

Grondin and Hill finished 9th and 14th respectively at Sunday's mixed team event, while O'Dine finished 10th and Critchlow was 20th. 

Big White Ski Resort prides themselves on being inclusive to all spectators allowing all fans to get up-close and personal with the athletes. 

"You can't do that in Europe, most of the course is closed the people can't get close to it. They can't have their phones out on the fencing but here we make it safe so everybody can come in and enjoy," says Ballingal. 

"It's fantastic for the young kids to be able to come to a resort like Big White and see their heroes and the top athletes doing what they're doing at an elite level, it gives them great inspiration," says Hegarty. 

"I remember when I was in that position watching the senior national teams' riders racers going, 'wow, that's what I want to do', so it warms your heart thinking that they might have the same thing going on in your head to perform well," explains O'Dine. 

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