The first IPC Snowboard NorAm and World Cups in snowboard-cross are set to get underway on Thursday (4 February) in Aspen, USA, featuring the long awaited return of several big name athletes. The USA’s Amy Purdy, a bronze medallist from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and television celebrity, will use her home snow to compete at a World Cup for the first time in 12 months. Purdy is returning to the women’s SB-LL2 with two years until the next Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018. “We have such a strong team this season. I am so proud of everyone,” Purdy said. “A lot of dedicated athletes are training for the next US Snowboard team. I’m using this season to get back in the swing of things and see how it goes.” The Netherlands’ Paralympic and world champion Bibian Mentel-Spee is also coming back to competition. The multiple World Cup winner has been receiving cancer treatment which saw her miss the opening races of the season at home in Landgraaf in November. Mentel-Spee is one of Purdy’s main competitors, as well as compatriot Lisa Bunschoten, who secured the first World Cup victories of her career in banked slalom in late 2015. The USA’s Paralympic gold medallist Evan Strong faces a stacked field in the men’s SB-LL2. Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari claimed the snowboard-cross title ahead of Strong at the 2015 World Championships. The pair will meet again after going to head-to-head in Landgraaf, where Strong claimed a victory in banked slalom. Canada’s Alex Massie is also a contender having picked up bronze at the Worlds, alongside Strong’s teammate Michael Shea, who won the overall World Cup title in 2014-15. In the women’s SB-LL1, the USA’s World Championships bronze medallist Nicole Roundy will test herself against compatriot Megan Harmon who is making her season debut. Dutch World title holder Chris Vos, 17, is also in Aspen after winning both of his opening World Cup races in the men’s SB-LL1 in Landgraaf. US rider Mike Schultz returns after injuring himself at the X Games in 2015, meaning he missed out on the chance to go for the World title in his first competitive season. All three World Championships medallists in men’s snowboard-cross SB-UL are also in Aspen. Italy’s gold and silver medallists Manuel Pozzerle and Roberto Cavicchi, respectively, and British bronze medallist Ben Moore are likely to be the main contenders. The IPC Snowboard NorAm Cup will feature one snowboard-cross race for each classification on Thursday (4 February). It will be followed by a further two snowboard-cross World Cup races on Friday (5 February) and Saturday (6 February). Live updates and pictures will be posted on @IPCSnowboard and Facebook.com/IPCSnowboard. Results will be available at www.paralympic.org/snowboard/calendar-results.