The Junior Canadian Open Freeski Championship last Friday and Saturday on Red was a big hit, with registrations filled 22 minutes after they opened in December, no injuries at all, bluebird skies for the finals on Saturday, kids flying off cliffs everywhere, and big smiles all around.
Events manager Shane D’Appolonia was a happy man on top of Link’s Line. “The sunshine’s great, people are excited, and the snow is good — that’s what counts the most. You can see it right now, the chair is packed and stacked, we’ve got a line up down there. This is what it’s all about, I get tinglies just thinking about it!”
He was particularly pleased by his staff of dedicated volunteers. “We’ve got good people this year, they have passion for the mountain.”
And the competitors put on quite a show. Head judge Jeff Holden said at the end of the competition, “I really want to express thanks and gratitude for some awesome skiing.”
Jeff Schmuck, managing editor for Newschoolers.com, the world’s biggest ski website, chose to skip out on the Winter Dew Tour — one of the year’s top freeski events — “to be here for the junior event in particular.”
For the seniors, there are a lot of bigger events competing for attention, Schmuck explained, “but for the juniors, [this comp] is at the top of the heap. It’s a great platform for these guys to get their names out and turn some heads.”
“I grew up in Rossland,” he continued, “I look at these kids and I see myself, although they’re a lot better than I was! It’s a really mellow vibe, everyone’s just going for a ski.”
The Flood family, Rosslanders since 2003, did us proud. Erin took third place for Rossland in the girl’s 7-11 category while her older brother, Jacob, and sister, Mackenzie, competed in the 12-15 categories.
Mackenzie blasted onto the highest podium after Rossland native Sally Steeves lost a ski and dropped to third place. Mackenzie was all smiles in the sunshine on Main after her run.
“The cliff line was blocked off yesterday, but today it wasn’t, so I decided to bump up my line score and went off that, and then hit that clump of rocks here, then I just ripped it over here,” she said, pointing at gnarly sections on Link’s Line.
Also a family affair for the Capels from Banff, Keegan earned second in the men’s 16-18 category — and won the Ill Eagle Award for skiing “solid, embodying the energy of clean,” Holden said – while his sister Jemma took first in the girl’s 7-11 and brother Garret took sixth in the men’s 12-15.
In the same category as Keegan, it was a disappointment for Rossland’s Todd Loukras who qualified in second place, but caught a tip after a big 360 and ground both himself and his podium hopes to a halt, dropping to 10th. Both Edward Shepherd and Vinzenz Keller of Rossland had solid runs, placing them in eighth and ninth, respectively.
Rossland was well-represented by chargers in the boys’ 7-11 category, with Nevan Fuller (13th), Logan Tanguay (eighth), Gavin Patterson (fifth), and Red Mountain sponsored Simon Hillis taking fourth. Only eight, Hillis has three more years to tear it up in this category.
In an interview at the awards ceremony, he remembered his first time on skis: “It was before the ski hill opened, just by the Silverlode chair. It was really funny because I was going down by the magic carpet and then I was in the deep powder and I was like, Daddy, is this how we ski?”
Hillis skis with the Ski Academy on Fridays and Saturdays, and with friends on Sunday. There’s no question what his favourite thing to do is: “Ski.”
Dayna Mortimer represented Rossland in the women’s 16-18 category, facing two Washingtonians in the final.
“Unfortunately two girls from Rossland got cut last night, so I’ve got to hold my own here,” she said before her race. “Run yesterday was pretty solid. Got quite a few good drops in there, had a pretty good line.”
She overshot a landing so dropped from second to third place, but had a big grin on the podium, happy to be there.
Rossland’s Sterpin family was also out in force, with Hannah taking fifth in the women’s 12-15 category, and her brother Xander killing it in the men’s 12-15, earning the top spot against 35 other finalists in the competition’s biggest field.
Unhappy with his JJ Armada’s on the stiff snow, Xander borrowed a friend’s skis, perhaps developing a preference for stiff, full camber skis during his five years as a racer. He credits racing with helping his technique a lot: “It gives you a good base to work from.”
He was “pretty stoked” after his final that earned him a huge two point lead over second place. He advised the younger skiers coming up, “Just charge, go hard. Make sure you’re under control. Fluidity is really good. Don’t stall on top of your cliffs, just go the whole way.”
Xander was joined on the podium by Rossland’s Kelley Humphreys in third, followed close behind by George Hogarth in fifth. Rossland’s Connor Streadwich took 13th and Sean Ennis ended in 18th.
In the same category, Trail’s Deremie Bell recently got off crutches, but that didn’t hold him back. “I gotta bump it up today, and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said before his final run. “If I don’t crash, I’m going to dance; If I crash I’m going to dance.”
He then hucked a 360 so big and crashed so spectacularly that he earned a special mention from judge Jeff Holden.
“He did not hesitate, maintained his composure, put his skis back on, busted a couple 360s, stayed on it. Nice work,” he said. “Some people get really shook up, they get upside down and things don’t work well. Others get back up.”