The Yukon Freestyle Ski Association and Mount Sima are part of an experiment and positive results are starting to roll in.
The YFSA unveiled its new all-season ski ramp at the resort on Saturday. At the ceremony YFSA president Lynda Harlow announced that with the new facility Sima will host the first Canada Cup series event of the season in November.
“We hope to make it an annual event. It’s a huge freestyle competition,” said Harlow. “Because of this and how great our ski hill is and how supportive our community is, it’s really opened up a lot of doors for us. We’re pretty proud of it.”
Not only will it be the first Canada Cup in Yukon and the first of the 2016/17 season, it will be the first freestyle ski competition held in North America this season.
The northern climate has its advantages. Last November, in a Sima first, the resort welcomed provincial and national level skiers and snowboarders for preseason training, including members of Canada Snowboard’s para-snowboard team.
Now that the resort also has a big ramp that can be used year-round, Sima seems poised to become a hotspot for preseason training for elite skiers and snowboarders.
“We have snow a lot earlier than most of the other resorts and a lot of teams have to fly out to Colorado or other locations that are pretty expensive,” said Harlow. “Pre-season training (at Sima) was such a great success last year, this is sort of a result of that. Teams left here seeing how great it was and seeing how much training they could get on it.
“I think that was key to getting this event (the Canada Cup).”
The ramp, designed by Katal Innovations Inc., is truly something to behold. It is over six metres wide and over 54 metres long. It splits at the bottom to offer skiers a three-metre jump and a four-metre jump. It is used in conjunction with a massive 15-by-15-metre airbag — much like those used by Hollywood stuntmen — the YFSA purchased in 2012.
It can operate as a “dry slope” summer training ramp using a plastic material called Neveplast developed in Italy, and with snow during the winter.
It cost $215,503 to construct, with about $146,000 from the Yukon government’s Community Development Fund, $41,000 from Lotteries Yukon and the rest from the YFSA.
“The whole idea was for the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association to have a template of a summer ramp project that they could use for other ski hills,” said Harlow. “All ski sports are limited by the snow and you have to find a way to train during the summer. These dry-slopes are set up in Europe and have been for a little while, and there are a couple in the States.”
There’s a similar sized ramp in Quebec that is a water ramp, meaning it has a pool at the bottom. There’s another dry slope ramp in Nova Scotia that’s a little bit smaller.
YFSA’s ramp grabbed a lot of interest before it even opened. Harlow has received email inquiries from throughout Canada, the U.S. and even New Zealand.
“One of the coaches of Jossi Wells, who is a very famous X Games athlete, actually contacted us,” said Harlow. “He’s heard about our ramp and is very curious about the setup.
“New Zealand is a long way away for people to be talking about Sima, so that’s pretty cool.”
Of course, the people who likely benefit the most from the ramp are members of the Yukon Freestyle Ski Team. As long as Yukon winters are, being able to practice jumps all year long will have a big impact, said head coach Graham Pollock.
“The air bag alone is a really important training tool, especially now with how fast the sport is progressing,” said Pollock. “Being able to utilize it, not only in the winter before they take it to snow, adds to the safety and progression of the sport. Using it in the summer makes this sport, which was previously a winter sport, a year-round thing.”
The Canadian Freestyle Ski Association’s Canada Cup series is a circuit of competitions held each season throughout Canada. The first one of the season will take place at Sima Nov. 24-27.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com