Yukon freestyle skiers have found their leader in Jon Standing.
Mount Sima’s new freestyle head coach and alpine sports co-ordinator literally wrote the book on freestyle skiing in Canada.
Now he’s here to put Sima, and its skiers, on the map.
“As a master course facilitator for entry-level programs, I write the manuals; I train the people who run the courses,” said Standing of just one of his many skills.
Entering his 18th season as a ski pro, Standing was looking for new challenges — for a job that used his unique set of skills.
Although he started as a lift operator in Jasper, and worked there for eight years, Standing was born in Winnipeg.
“I guess that’s why I burned to get out to the mountains so badly,” he said with a laugh.
While at Jasper, he started competing in moguls, eventually gaining a No. 2 ranking in western Canada and a spot as an alternate on the national team.
“That was the pinnacle of my competitive career,” he said.
At the same time, he started a freestyle club in Jasper, which produced several top junior athletes, including a national champion and three second-place finishers.
Craving more snow, Standing relocated to Vancouver Island’s Mount Washington.
There, he found what he was looking for.
“My first year there, they lost the marker — 12 metres of snow pack.”
He ended up creating a freestyle program there as well, which grew to more than 100 members after two seasons.
With a raft of credentials and years of experience, Standing was looking for a new challenge when the Mount Sima job was created this year.
“When I read the job description — I called them up and said, ‘Did you look at my resume first or something? — you literally wrote this job for me.’”
The Canada Games, which has been a catalyst for numerous changes at Mount Sima, forced the creation of Standing’s job.
“Having a professional coach is how it’s done at most clubs — it’s not easy to find someone who’ll come up here and do that,” said Dick Eastmure, the longtime alpine racing head coach.
“Resources are a problem — when you have a smaller program it’s more difficult.”
Eastmure has been involved with the racing club since the beginning, on a volunteer basis.
“It’s always been my goal, and I think one of the goals of the club, to be able to have seasonal, full-time people working with the program, that’s how you get better, build it up and have success,” he said.
Standing is their man for the job.
“They knew they needed to do something, they knew there was a window of opportunity here, and they knew they wanted an excellent program in freestyle and alpine. I don’t think they had an idea of how to get there, exactly,” said Standing.
His first order of business was to merge the entry-level programs into one group.
“I believe if we integrate the programs, alpine has the benefit of attracting more kids, because they know they’ll get to use the terrain park as well.
“Freestyle, first of all, gets the benefit of bigger numbers and, secondly, receives a great job of teaching basic skills from the alpine side. It’s a win-win situation.”
“We don’t want to be competing over athletes. From my experience, when athletes hit about 12-13, they have to make a decision about what competitive program they’re into.
“I find that athletes that want to do one, don’t really want to do the other. That said, we’re going to be giving all the athletes a variety of training.”
Standing doesn’t have any illusions about Yukon being a powerhouse for freestyle skiing … not yet anyway.
At the upcoming Canada Games, both the freestyle and alpine teams from Yukon will have underage athletes.
Only alpine racer Sammy Kent, who now trains in Calgary, has any expectations riding on him. Eastmure is hoping for the best Yukon finish ever from Kent.
With continued support, though, Mount Sima can be a home for excellence in skiing.
“There’s a good population base here, I certainly think it’s big enough, if you look at hills in Quebec with smaller towns close by, they produce lots of excellent athletes,” said Standing.
“We’ve got a city of 24,000, there’s no reason we can’t have 80 people in our entry-level program, and 12 in each of our competitive programs.”
That’s the long-term goal.
However, this year’s entry-level program will be limited to 42 people.
The competitive squads are set for this season, but questions regarding the entry-level program or non-competitive training can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org