Yukon skier gives breakthrough performance at Canadian Open

A Yukon freestyle skier went so high off jumps last weekend, he landed on a different circuit.

A Yukon freestyle skier went so high off jumps last weekend, he landed on a different circuit.

With a podium finish at a Canadian Open Tour event, Whitehorse’s Etienne Geoffroy-Gagnon has qualified for the elite FIS NorAm circuit.

The 19-year-old will continue to represent the Yukon Freestyle Ski Team (YFST) in the NorAms, but will travel with the Alberta Freestyle Team.

“I’ll meet them for competitions, which is kind of nice, to have a coach for that,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “I’m working my way up to trying to make the national team, so I’ll have to keep getting some podium spots.

“Because I podiumed at this one, I have enough points to qualify for the NorAm competitions … the ones that national development team athletes go to. That gives me a chance to try and beat those guys and try to take one of the spots on that team.”

“He’ll be going with a different coach and a different team, but he has a big season ahead of him,” said YFST head coach Graham Pollock. “He meshing well with that coach and I trust that coach to send him along and put him in the right direction.”

Geoffroy-Gagnon won silver in the open men’s slopestyle division at the Canadian Open on Jan. 15 at Silver Star Mountain Resort near Vernon, B.C.

The medal marks the best-ever finish by a Yukoner at a Canadian Open.

“I’m pretty happy with that. Last year was my first year competing in the circuit and I had to get my legs back under me from my injury,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon, who broke his ankle while training in Jan. 2015. “This year everything has been going really well. I got a top-10 result in Yukon, then I won a pretty big rail jam down here in Silver Star and the week after that was the Canada Cup event at the same mountain.”

In the finals each skier completes two runs and the higher score from the two counts. Geoffroy-Gagnon performed a 270 on/270 off on the first rail; switch on, 630 off on a canon rail; a switch rightside cork 1080, a switch misty 900 with a tail grab, and a rodeo 900 octo on the jumps. For it he scored a 92.8, just 2.2 behind the gold medalist, Phillipe Langvin of Quebec.

Geoffroy-Gagnon scored an 89.8 in his first run — the one that didn’t count — that would still have been good enough for silver.

“He was going the biggest of any of the competitors and holding his grabs the longest,” said Pollock. “He stomped it and it was amazing.”

“I just went into it hoping to put my run down and not pay too much attention to other people,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “I’m starting to figure out how to compete again and starting to figure out how to get up there on the podium. I’m hoping I can keep doing that at the next few events.”

Geoffroy-Gagnon’s silver medal was one highlight of many for the YFST at Silver Star over the weekend. All four members of the team there qualified for the finals.

“Everybody skied super well and it was awesome,” said Pollock. “It is the best result Yukon freestyle has ever gotten and I couldn’t be happier, not just for Yukon freestyle but the entire territory.”

YFST’s Miguel Rodden finished 14th, Kyran Allen 15th and Niko Rodden 24th in the field of 60 skiers. With four skiers in the top-25, teeny-weeny Yukon had more than B.C. and the same as behemoths Quebec and Ontario.

“The Rodden brothers … didn’t nail their runs, but the highlight for me was the fact they messed up on the first feature and instead of just skiing down the hill like most people do, they did some pretty cool crowd pleasers, including Niko doing switch back flips the whole way down and Miguel doing a double back flip on the bottom jump,” said Pollock. “That was massive. They weren’t getting scored on it because they fell, but it was just for the crowd, for the judges, for the competitors, and it put the stoke level of everyone up to the nines.”

Silver Star was the second Canadian Open for the team this season — the first was at home at Whitehorse’s Mount Sima resort in November. Geoffroy-Gagnon placed eighth and Miguel 22nd at the event.

Geoffroy-Gagnon is no stranger to making podiums. He became the first Yukon skier ever to win a gold at junior nationals in 2014, leaving with three in total that year.

He competed at some big international events last season, culminating in a ninth place finish at the Spring Battle in Austria.

He is currently ranked 47th in men’s slopestyle in the Association of Freestyle Professionals standings.

“Icycle Sports is pretty much my first real sponsor and I’m just really happy with them, to help me get some equipment,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “To have a local ski and bike shop help me out means a lot.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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