Nagano (JPN). The snowboard riders have arrived in Shigakogen last night at about one hour drive from downtown Nagano for the 14th stage of the 1999/2000 NOKIA Snowboard FIS World Cup to take place there next weekend. The races will be held on the same slopes where the first-ever Olympic snowboard competitions in Giant Slalom and Halfpipe were staged during the 1998 Olympic Winter Games.

While it was heavily snowing all day most of the riders took a day off in the Shigakogen area, the venue of the Giant Slalom and the place where everyone is staying for the week, or went down to Kanbayashi, the Halfpipe venue at about 30 minutes drive from Shigakogen, to watch the monkeys living there at the hot springs.Training will be picked up on Wednesday although the tremendous amount of snow that came into the area over the past couple of days has affected the conditions of the World Cup slopes a lot.

The GS riders will be the first to compete coming Saturday. Stefan Kaltschütz from Austria is currently leading the standings but NOKIA World team rider Matthieu Bozzetto from France is only 54 points back. US rider Christopher J. Klug takes third place so far and will be back racing after he missed the Makomanai stage since he participated in the Goodwill Games last week. Austrias Felix Stadler as well as Stephen Copp from Sweden will be other strong contenders for the podium.The womens’ standings is pretty close at the top with Sweden’s Aasa Windahl wearing the yellow World Cup leader bib and US rider Sondra van Ert, Super-G winner at the Goodwill Games, at just 14 points behind her. NOKIA rider Manuela Riegler from Austria is also close with just 30 points back from Windahl. France’s Karine Ruby who won the Olympic gold medal on this slope is in fourth place so far and also needs to be considered as well as reigning GS World Champion Margherita Parini from Italy, fifth place in the current standings.

Sweden is dominating the Halfpipe World Cup with Thomas Johansson leading ahead of Fredrik Sterner. Pasi Voho from Finnland is currently in third position, chased by Magnus Sterner, also from Sweden, who is only 90 points back.With Anna Hellman Sweden also has the lead in the womens’ standings ahead of Sabine Wehr-Hasler from Germany and US rider Tricia Byrnes, who just won the Halfpipe event at the Goodwill Games last weekend.

The snow falls are not supposed to stop shortly but there’s still some time left before the first race takes place on Saturday and the organisers are working hard to get the slopes prepared.