In less than a month, the Canada Winter Games will hit Red Deer – and I’m starting to get excited. While Red Deer isn’t exactly next door, the city’s proximity to Rocky View County offers us the chance to check out Canada’s top young winter-sport athletes in person, from Feb. 15 to March 2. An hour and a half’s jaunt north to watch potential future Olympians compete is certainly worth a day trip, at the very least. Despite never liking winter, I have fond memories associated with the Canada Winter Games. In 2007, my older brother competed in the annual event for Team Alberta as a freestyle skier. That year, the Games took place in Whitehorse, Yukon, and my parents and I flew north to cheer him on. While I remember it being unbelievably cold, we had a blast supporting my brother – he finished fourth in the half pipe competition – and soaking in the event’s ambiance. The Canada Winter Games are often held in small- to medium-sized cities, and the host venues are always buzzing with an Olympic-esque atmosphere. According to the City of Red Deer, this year’s Games will be the largest event ever held in Central Alberta, and it will be the largest multi-sport event to take place in Alberta since the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. It will also be just the third time the Canada Winter Games competition has been held in our province – and the first time since 1995, when the event was held in Grande Prairie. While incredibly expensive to put on, events like the Canada Winter Games inject a lot of money into the local economy. According to the City of Red Deer, this year’s Games will see roughly 20,000 visitors, with a forecasted economic impact of an estimated $132 million. As of Jan. 16, we still don’t know all the athletes who will be representing our province – but there will surely be some local athletes donning Team Alberta jackets when the opening ceremonies begin at the Red Deer Centrium Feb. 15. As the sports reporter for this paper, it’ll be exciting for me to follow and report on those athletes and their respective competitions. I’ve received my media accreditation, and I’ve arranged to stay at my aunt and uncle’s home in Red Deer on the weekends during the event, so I can check out and report on more of the action. Hopefully, plenty of Rocky View County residents will be able to drive north and cheer their athletes on, too.