Freestyle skiers fly high at Yukon’s first Canada Cup

Three and a half years after Whitehorse’s Mount Sima threatened to close due to funding shortages, the ski resort was the epicentre of freestyle skiing in North America over the weekend.

Three and a half years after Whitehorse’s Mount Sima threatened to close due to funding shortages, the ski resort was the epicentre of freestyle skiing in North America over the weekend.

In partnership with the Yukon Freestyle Ski Association (YFSA) and the sport’s national governing body Freestyle Canada, Sima was the scene of a Canada Cup series event.

“Mount Sima did a terrific job and the local club put in a ton of effort corralling volunteers, gathering around this national competition,” said Freestyle Canada competition coordinator Patrick Breault. “So we partnered with them to make sure we had a great event and everyone succeeded, I think.”

The Canada Cup was not only the first high-level freestyle ski competition held this season in North America, it was the first ever North of 60.

A number of factors were considered in Freestyle Canada’s decision to hold the competition at Sima, said Breault.

Sima has hosted a major freestyle ski event before during the Canada Winter Games in 2007. YFSA secured an airbag training device in 2012 and this past year a world-class all-season ski ramp.

Perhaps most significant, the last two years Sima has welcomed national and provincial ski and snowboard teams for preseason training. About 190 elite athletes trained at Sima earlier this month and 120 last year.

“The Canada Winter Games were here in 2007, so there was a strong freestyle ski community here using Mount Sima and with Sima’s cooperation that freestyle community grew,” said Breault. “They developed great facilities like the ramp, like the airbag and what they’ve done the last few years is built great terrain for early season training.”

“Because the terrain is so good and the time of year is unlike any other resort right now in North America, all the Canadian teams come up here for training. So we decided to look into an event to happen at the same time and it worked out awesome.”

Since the weekend’s competition went off without a hitch, Freestyle Canada won’t need much convincing to make the event an annual one. In fact, that’s been the plan all along, said Breault.

“It’s been winter here for a month and when things are predictable like that, it’s easy to come back. All the athletes, judges — we had a great event.

“We’re already looking at next year and the years to come. If everything works out, hopefully we can.”

About 80 skiers took part in the Canada Cup. Six members of the national team’s “Next Gen” program competed, as well as skiers from B.C., Alberta, Quebec, Ontario and Yukon. The Canada Cup also saw a dozen coaches and about a dozen officials and judges from across the country come for the event.

Graham Pollock, who is starting his first season as head coach for the Yukon Freestyle Ski Team, was impressed by his skiers and how hiccup-free the competition was.

“It was pretty wild,” said Pollock. “I felt it was probably one of the smoothest competitions I’ve ever been to, which is saying quite a lot. With freestyle you always add the element of free to it and there’s always something that goes wrong. This event, because of the event staff, the mountain, it was all placed together amazingly. I didn’t hear a single complaint all weekend, which is unheard of in the sport.”

Yukon was represented by six skiers. Whitehorse’s Miguel Rodden, 23, qualified for the men’s final in first place, but finished in 22nd.

“It was my first competition in like four years, so I wasn’t really expecting much — mostly to just have fun,” said Rodden, who wowed judges with a switch bio 1080 method. “I ended up qualifying first yesterday, so it went better than I could expect yesterday, but today it didn’t go as planned. I just fell on both my runs unfortunately. It happens.”

Teammate Etienne Geoffroy-Gagnon also reached the final and went on to place eighth. Geoffroy-Gagnon won Yukon’s first-ever gold medal at the Canadian Junior Freestyle Skiing Championships in 2014.

His big trick of the weekend, said Pollock, was a switch misty 900 with a tail grab.

Yukon’s Dylan Reed placed 26th after qualifying but didn’t make the finals.

The Yukon team was going so big off some jumps, they were almost overshooting the landings, said Pollock.

“They were both landing at the bottom,” he said. “It was kind of a theme at the event for the Yukoners — we didn’t like the landing so we avoided them. They went big.”

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