Looking at the Venue. PHOTO: J.BERNARD

The greatest distinction between big mountain contests, in contrasts with other skiing disciplines, is the diversity of each venue. While, generally, a halfpipe in France is the same as a halfpipe in New Zealand and a slalom in Aspen is the quite similar to a slalom Flachau, the only similarities in big mountain venues are the start gate and finish gate- what's between varies greatly from location to location, and even season to season.

That said, the Tet D’arp, the venue here in Courmayeur, Italy, is a stark contrast to the Revelstoke venue last week. Begining in the alpine, the top part of the venue is mix of heavily peppered steeps and couloirs. Sharks are prevalent, and the deeply faceted snow around the rocks will likely favor earlier riders, with the snow breaking down by the end of the field. From the steeps, the alpine terrain gives way to several lightly treed features toward the finish line. While not as significant as the upper portion of the venue, these lower features provide some options to make up points that riders may have not gained higher in the venue.

Most significantly, unlike the Revelstoke terrain, the Courmayeur face has a number of prominent decks and lips, favoring more park-oriented riders. Look for far more tricks than in Canada, with guys like Markus Eder capitalizing. There's no ignoring the sharks on the upper portion of the venue and, outside of the main couloirs, it's a bit of a crapshoot. While it's always a bit nerve wracking knowing that day-enders are lurking just below the surface, the new snow that's currently forecast should hopefully limit the number of shark attacks on competition day. The lower portion of the venue will be a bit tricky as it wont make anybody's run, but it will undoubtedly ruin several people's days. Skipping it all together is not really an option either, so striking a balance between something aggressive, yet not too risky, will be key. All in all, look for significantly different skiing styles than at Revelstoke, with those that can throw in some tricks without getting hung up on rocks bringing home the bacon.