Summer school for freestyle skiers

Is there a better way to spend a hot summer day than sliding around on a glacier? Yukon’s fledgling freestyle ski club spent two weeks in July…

Is there a better way to spend a hot summer day than sliding around on a glacier?

Yukon’s fledgling freestyle ski club spent two weeks in July doing just that, on the Blackcomb glacier near Whistler.

Coach Marc Boulerice and skiers Darren White, Travis Wilson, Brayden Kulych, William Thomson and Jonathan Lowey met up with BC freestyle coach Jonathan Standing for an intensive training camp.

“We spent a week on the glacier, working on moguls, and three days on the water ramp, doing aerials training,” said Boulerice.

In the summer, the glacier is the place to be for world-class freestylers.

“We saw the national team training there, the US ski team and the Japanese team were there as well,” said Boulerice. “It was very good exposure for the kids, to see this level of skiing. A lot of them have only seen what goes on at the Olympics, on TV.”

The Yukon club is heading into its third winter with eight members, and no competitive experience. The camp was also a chance for them to see what their rivals are made of.

“Just seeing what the other coaches were doing, and what level their athletes are at — it made us realize what we have to strive for,” said Boulerice.

“Apex Mountain in Penticton has had a freestyle club for at least 17 years, so they have a lot of depth there.”

The existence of freestyle skiing in the Yukon is a direct result of the Whitehorse winning its bid to host the Canada Winter Games in February, and major changes in the facilities at Mt. Sima.

Last summer, the ski hill put in a half-pipe, mogul runs and aerial ramps, and improved the existing snowmaking technology.

The territory also wanted to have some representation in the competition.

“Sport Yukon approached me to start a team,” said Boulerice, who, despite being a veteran ski guide and coach, had no aerial experience.

None of the young skiers did either — most came out of the alpine ski-racing program at Mt. Sima.

Boulerice said that freestyle’s high-flying jumps appeal to a lot of young skiers.

“Freestyle is surpassing alpine in a lot of places, those clubs are growing,” he said. “It’s part of that new school of skiing.”

It’s tricky to put your finger on what freestyle actually entails. At the Olympic level, it’s aerials and moguls, but other competitions have half-pipe, big air and other configurations of extreme skiing.

Certain events, like ballet, have fallen by the wayside.

“For a long time it was alpine racing, then everyone quit that and went to snowboarding, which exploded. A lot of people plateaued with that sport — extreme skiing and snowboarding has kind of inspired a lot of freestylers.”

With just six months to the Canada Games, Boulerice is modest about the Yukon’s team.

“Realistically, we’ll have two athletes going to the Games here,” he said. “We knew it would be a small team. But we’re looking to the next Canada Games, that’s when were hoping to have a big enough group to put a good team together.”

Currently, there are no girls on the team; something Boulerice hopes will change this season.

They are hoping to attend a friendly competition in Smithers or Terrace before the Games, something that is currently in the works.

Boulerice thinks a competitive atmosphere might just help some of his skiers jump to a higher level.

In the meantime the club is taking a break until September. Then they will start up with flexibility training and trampoline work at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club in Riverdale.

“People are welcome to come and work out with us,” said Boulerice, who wants the club to keep growing.

Interested? Questions can be directed to yukonfreestyle@gmail.com.