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Giant slalom World Cup ski flip-flop a relief to Canadian men's team

GS ski flip-flop a relief to Canadian men

Giant slalom racing is going to be prettier to watch and a lot more fun to ski, according to the Canadian men's team.

A controversial change to the size of men's giant slalom skis by the world's governing body five years ago has been partially reversed for the 2017-18 World Cup season, which opens with a GS race in October.

"There will be a lot more flair to the sport," Toronto's Phil Brown said Thursday from Livigno, Italy, where Canadian men are testing the newest edition of the GS ski.

"With the old skis, if the snow conditions weren't perfect they were near impossible to ski on and it looked horrible."

"In the end, that's what we're after in all sports, is viewers and popularity. If the sport doesn't look interesting or fun, why would people watch?"

When FIS increased the men's GS ski from a minimum 183 centimetres in length and a 27-metre turning radius to a minimum 195 cm and 35-metre radius for the 2012-13 season, it was not universally welcomed.

U.S. ski star Ted Ligety complained in an op-ed piece on his website that "FIS is going out of their way to ruin the sport."

It didn't seem to hurt his performance, however, as Ligety won next two World Cup titles in giant slalom.

The rationale for the initial change was that the longer ski with a bigger turn radius would prevent injuries. 

The Canadian men believe the data of the last five years didn't prove that.

They say that's why FIS reduced the length of the ski to 193 cm, but more importantly decreased the turning radius to 30 metres for next season.

"It turns sharper, turns easier, turns in a tighter circle," Calgary's Trevor Philp explained.

The men are now racing on a similar GS ski to the women, which has a turning radius of 30 metres.

Brown, Philp and Dustin Cook of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., say the adjustment to their new skis this week has been easier than the transition to the GS skis of five years ago.

"Even though they're a lot easier to turn, it's completely different tactically and the way you ski on them is different," Cook said.

"The first couple days were kind of ugly, but now that I've skied five and the other guys have skied six days on them, the change is a lot easier than going the other way. Now that we've kind of figured them out, it's a lot more fun.

"It's a lot less work and it looks a lot better. It makes GS skiing look a lot prettier than it did the last bunch of years."

Brown believes the change will allow for more creative course sets for the men. The Canadians say it will also make GS easier for younger skiers breaking into the higher ranks of racing.

"It's going to be great for the younger generation, the kids entering FIS races," Philp said. "It was tough on them. You had World Cup skiers struggling with these new 35-metre skis. Those are the top guys in the world."

Cook was still annoyed he's had to ski on the previous version for five seasons, but Brown was pragmatic about the near flip-flop on the GS ski by FIS. 

"In all sports, there's going to regulations that are changing either for the better or for the worse," he said. "I guess we are guinea pigs, but in the end we're the product for the business of ski racing.

"We have to work with whatever is put in front of us and figure out the best way possible to ski on it. It's the job we sign up for."

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press