None of us could comprehend what we just witnessed. We were sitting in the Eagle’s Eye having a couple beers after watching the Junior Freeski Competition at Kicking Horse Mountain, trying to wrap our heads around the madness that unfolded at the far end of Feuz Bowl.
“NEVER, not even in my prime, would I consider spinning off that feature,” said Dano Slater, freeski legend and rightfully proud coach of the Whitewater Freeski Team (WFT).
He was talking about Liam Kelly’s 40-foot (plus?) 360 that he threw off the nose of the middle cliff band in Compton, the zone towards the end of Feuz Bowl that hosted the second day of the Jeep Junior Freeski competition.
Kelly stomped the landing but dropped his pole and, in a display of slightly misdirected discipline, hiked back up to retrieve it. (According to IFSA regulations, competitors have to finish with both their skis, but not necessarily their poles). It’s too bad, because Kelly also threw a lofty, laid-out three at the top of the course as well.
Liam’s performance definitely stood out, but it was in line with the standard set by the rest of the skiers in the 15-18 year-old category. Sam Woodward and Sam Kuch, both from WFT, took third and first place respectively with near-flawless skiing that included four point landings off 40-foot airs. Garret Kappel, Lake Louise local and RMF rider, took second place.
“Garret skied like a total wizard,” said Brian Coles , a mainstay judge on the Junior Freeski circuit.
Speaking of wizardry, it’s impossible not to mention the Bathgate twins, Jackson and Cooper, a couple of Whistler-bred shredders who took 4th and 5th place in the 15-18 year-old category. Cooper actually ended up with the “Spiritbird” award for his 360 to straight air combo off the dirty double at the bottom of the course.
It’s impossible not to get hung up on the skiing that the older kids put down because, really, it was the absolute pinnacle of Canadian freeskiing, the level of which any seasoned pro would have a hard time matching.
But the whole contest was super impressive, from the tiny girls, aged 7-11, who looked like they’d spent a lifetime skiing in steep terrain. Or the entire 12-14 year-old field who, over the two days of competition, hardly fell at all.
“It was a super impressive calibre of athletes,” says Sue Bateman, the coach of the GoldeN Alpine Rippers (GNAR). “It was difficult to tell the difference between the regional and national competitions which were held over the past two consecutive weekends. I would have hated to be in the judges’ position this past weekend.”
Of course one of the reasons the competition was so rad was because of the terrain it was held on (Feuz Bowl’s Guntower the one day and Compton the next). It’s so rad to see KHMR staying true to its freeride roots because it’s only natural that one of the gnarlier resorts out there would serve as the perfect venue for a comp like this one.
The conditions on the course could best be described as firm, but fair…chalky hardpack with predictable take-offs and bulletproof landings. But KHMR is skiing better than almost anywhere in Western Canada right now, which is why film crews from all over the world are travelling here en masse.
One of the best parts of the weekend was actually seeing the kids rip the resort between comp runs. There was a tiny bump at the bottom of a groomed Blue Heaven bowl that the kids were straightlining into and blasting 100-foot-long airs, all in a train in full view of the chairlift.
This is a far cry from seeing kids in spandex looking miserable at the bottom of a race course. This is the future of freeriding.
And hot damn, it looks like a lot of fun.
Huge Props to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort for hosting such a rad event…
Keep your eyes open for the Senior competitors throwing down at Wrangle the Chute March 27-28
Massive thanks to John Rathwell for the photos…