STONEHAM, Que. - Quebec is ready to host the FIS Snowboarding World Championships for the first time, but many of the province's finest snowboarders won't be there to compete.
The event kicks takes over the Stoneham Mountain Resort over the next two weekends, kicking off Thursday at the popular resort north of Quebec City with the slopestyle event — a new addition to the Winter Olympics beginning with the 2014 Sochi Games.
But Quebec's best competitors, including young star Sebastien (Seb Toots) Toutant, won't attend the event due to contractual obligations.
At the request of their sponsor O'Neill, Toutant, Antoine Truchon and Maxence Parrot will be in Davos, Switzerland for a prestigious big air event.
Toutant and Truchon would have been serious contenders for a medal in the slopestyle and big air events. Truchon won the big air event at a world cup event in Stoneham last year.
Robert Joncas, high performance director the Canadian squad, said the trio's absence is "unfortunate and disappointing," but added that it was a situation that was beyond the team's control.
Joncas said that Toutant confirmed his participation at the world championships months ago before being forced to change his plans after a date change for the event in Davos.
"He is probably the most disappointed with the turn of events," Joncas said.
Canada will still have strong representation at the event, including young Mark McMorris of Regina, one of the best snowboarders and acrobats on the international scene. Spencer O'Brien of North Vancouver, B.C., will compete in the women's event.
McMorris' older brother Craig is also competing and is attempting a comeback after surgery on his right knee.
"The track conditions will complicate our task," Mark McMorris said. "It will be a bit scary because we'll be afraid of getting hurt but we'll try not to fall. We have some training sessions to get used to it."
The final men's and women's slopestyle, will be held Friday afternoon.
Michael Roy, a native of L'Ange Guardian, Que., will compete in the men's big air, to be held in downtown Quebec City on Friday and Saturday.
Big air is the only snowboarding event that will be featured at Stoneham that's not part of the Olympic program.
The world championships run from Jan. 17-27, extending over the two weekends.
After three freestyle events, snowboarders from more than forty countries will take part in three tests of speed — snowboard cross, parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom.
Those speed events will feature Canadian snowboarding stars Dominique Maltais, Maelle Ricker, Caroline Calve and Jasey-Jay Anderson.
The world championships include more than 400 athletes from some 40 countries competing and will allow for some Canadians to secure a spot on the Olympic squad with the Games a year away.
Calve, who had a podium finish in the parallel slalom before the holidays in Italy, has already got a spot. So does Maltais, who won the snowboard cross event in Austria at the beginning of the season.
Canada can send a maximum 24 snowboarders to Russia, and a minimum of ten men and women.