When Etienne Geoffroy-Gagnon started the freestyle skiing season, his goal was to be in the top 15 in Canada.
Now after the end of a very unusual slopestyle World Cup season, the Whitehorse skier finished sixth overall in the slopestyle World Cup standings.
“It’s definitely weird and I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet just because of all the shenanigans going on,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon, alluding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the season’s final event originally planned for March 19 to 21 in Switzerland. “I was lucky enough to put it down when it counted and got to do that over and over again. Obviously it’s not all luck there. I’m obviously super stoked. The hard work is starting to pay off and it really sets me up nice for next season, going into that Olympic qualifying year.”
Geoffroy-Gagnon is quick to point out he didn’t have a spot for the opening event in Austria — it was cancelled due to a snowstorm — and that the final event would have included more of the top skiers that didn’t compete at all of the events due to the X Games.
“It seems like I got a little lucky for sure,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “I can only take what I can get and move along with it.”
He did, however, turn in impressive performances at the events that did happen. He was 24th in Font Romeu, France, before finishing sixth, fifth and seventh at events in Italy, the United States and Calgary.
The Yukoner is hopeful his efforts will be enough to see him promoted from the NextGen team up to the B team within the national program.
“I’m fairly confident that I’ll be moving up to that B team and that’s been a huge goal,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “In my mind I thought that would take me longer than it did. I was kind of giving myself three years to be able to move up and just being able to (in my) second year on the World Cup tour figure it out and be able to land runs of this calibre obviously makes me really happy and looking forward to the future.”
Geoffroy-Gagnon is home in Whitehorse, having spent the last few days travelling home from Quebec where he was to take part in a training camp that was cancelled due to rain of all things.
“The same day (the camp was cancelled), we got the news that … the Switzerland (event) was going to be cancelled,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “I was checking out my options and trying to see what would be open.”
The major resorts were already closed or closing, so he decided a trip home was in order.
“I thought I’d rather just be home in case anything escalates,” he said. “If anything gets worse, I won’t be stuck anywhere.”
For now he’s stuck waiting.
Ordinarily, Geoffroy-Gagnon would be training on snow until the middle of May. After that would typically be a short break in Whistler before a five-week camp on a glacier.
Some extra rest may not be the worst thing to happen to him, he concedes.
“It ends up being pretty heavy and pretty non-stop,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “My body is fine and I don’t feel I need to really take a huge break. I’ve been skiing all the way up to this date and it’s been great to just not have the pressure of having to compete and just being able to just go out and ski.”
Asked what he’ll do if it’s an extended hiatus before camps can resume, he said he’s somewhat used to it.
“I’ve definitely always kind of had to deal with that growing up in the Yukon just because the ski hill is normally open weekends,” he said. “I got the opportunity to build a setup in my backyard that I can hit with some friends and that’s fun. Getting back to the gym is usually pretty beneficial for when I do get back on skis.”
If the break goes into the summer though, he said he’s got at least one more thing he might do to pass the time.
“I’ve always kind of looked into doing some online courses and stuff like that,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “I haven’t had quite the chance to do it yet; maybe this’ll open up that possibility. I think some good things could come out of this if I just move along with it.”
No matter what the off-season entails for Geoffroy-Gagnon, next winter’s season and the Olympic qualifying that comes with it will be waiting for the skier when he and the rest of the world get back to competing.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com