Athletes from around the world are in Whistler this weekend to compete in the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup.
The events are taking place at the Whistler Sliding Centre, home of the "fastest ice track in the world" — the same track where Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a horrific crash just hours before the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Hundreds of people are expected to watch the international athletes hurl themselves down the track at speeds well over 100 km/h — some of them, head first.
"It's a super fast track, that's super intimidating for people. There's no way to go slow, it's a gravity sport," said bobsleigh pilot Justin Kripps.
Kripps said the track is not only fast, it's technical and generally considered to be advanced.
But the sliding centre is where Kripps learned to drive. He was in the first sled to test the track — and is well aware of the potential risk.
"It's a dangerous sport and you have to kind of put those things aside and trust that the safety guards are in place and that you yourself are able to do your job," he said.
Track modified for safety
Whistler Sport Legacies president Roger Soane said the track has been modified since the tragic death of Kumaritashvili, who was thrown into a steel beam near the end of the run.
"This year we made changes to the roof lines. That's something that all tracks around the world do from time to time, which keeps sleds closer to the ice and pushes them in," he said.
Officials and drivers alike say the speed of this track brings an advantage for the Canadian team when it comes to building a future generation of Olympians.
"From the day this thing opened, our athletes have absolutely thrived on coming here," said Chris Dornan, spokesperson for Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton.
"They love the speed of the track, the technical aspect. It helps with their development."
Women's skeleton was the first race of the competition; it took place Friday afternoon. The men's bobsleigh was scheduled for Friday night.