It’s been a busy summer for Whitehorse’s Etienne Geoffroy-Gagnon.
The 22-year-old freestyle skier spent his time training primarily in Whistler, but also in Quebec and Switzerland.
“I’ve been training non-stop,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “Now, I’m home for a little bit doing a bit more dryland-oriented stuff.”
He’s off to Calgary soon for fitness testing and then another training camp in Quebec.
As part of the NextGen group of the national team, the Yukoner is guaranteed three spots on the World Cup circuit to compete in the slopestyle event. It’s a similar situation to last season, his first full year on the World Cup, at least on paper.
Despite having only three spots at the start of last season, Geoffroy-Gagnon skied his way to five slopestyle World Cup events and one big air event.
“Kind of a big thing this season compared to last season is there are a lot less World Cup spots,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon, explaining each event will have approximately 40 less participants. “Being on the development team, and not on the ‘A’ team or ‘B’ team, it’s definitely going to be a little harder.”
Geoffroy-Gagnon does have the best ranking of all his NextGen teammates — he’s ranked 35th in slopestyle on the FIS base points list for 2020 — so it is possible he gets the nod for events beyond the three he already has a place in.
What he does have, though, is a plan.
Since the Olympics are the goal and the season after this one is the biggest opportunity for qualification, Geoffroy-Gagnon has his sights set on getting as many World Cup starts as possible for next season.
“Obviously, to move up I need a World Cup podium,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “So if I can just focus on those three and make sure I’m as ready as I can be, show up and do my best, and that’s where I’ll have the best chances.”
One other way to get into all the World Cup events is to win the NorAm Cup.
Two years ago Geoffroy-Gagnon finished third in the NorAms, despite missing the final event due to a thumb injury.
“I’m definitely up there for chances of being able to win that,” he said. “Obviously it’s not going to be handed to me and it’s going to be very difficult, but if I can get more time to train this year, do a bit more NorAms and try to focus on those three World Cups I know I’m going to, I think that will set me up nicely for next year.”
Geoffroy-Gagnon also has the benefit of knowing what to expect on the World Cup. He’s skied most of the venues, he knows what it takes to do well and can use that knowledge to hone his preparations.
“I’ve been training all summer and feel a lot better than I did last season going into the winter,” he said. “I’m feeling good, feeling confident and my training is going well.”
Part of what’s changed, Geoffroy-Gagnon said, is that his confidence is growing as much as his knowledge and experience.
“Last season opened my eyes quite a bit and I got the opportunity to see what the best are doing,” he said. “It gives me time to come home and now I know what to work on, I know what to build on, and I have that confidence building up again.”
There’s an adjustment as you move up through the levels of competition and it takes a couple years to really get comfortable, he said.
“This is my second year kind of slowly building my confidence again and I’m hoping that next year, my third year doing the World Cup tour, will be one of the big seasons for me.”
Geoffroy-Gagnon was clear, however, that his immediate focus is his three World Cup events this season.
“For me it’s really what I’m looking at,” he said. “If I get to go to the other ones, that’s great and I’ll ski my hardest. But in terms of playing it smart and really using my time efficiently, it’s going to be prepping for France, Italy and Calgary.”
His patience is clear from his outlook, and it shines through in his advice for younger Yukoners looking at him as proof of what’s possible.
“Keep having fun and keep going to the hill for the right reasons,” he said. “It’s just slowly working on it and all you can really do is work on your own thing and build yourself up to the best you can be. It’s easy with social media and stuff to look on there and kind of get a little bit more discouraged, but if you keep the fun in it and keep progressing the right way, you just keep getting better and better.”
Geoffroy-Gagnon is set to compete at the Font Romeu, France, and Seiseralm, Italy, World Cup events in January as well as the Calgary World Cup event at the end of February.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com