Evan McEachran took just one run that counted during The North Face Pipe and Park Open Series stop in Whistler last week, but it ended up being the one that counted most.
The 16-year-old skied to a score of 90.8 during Wednesday’s (Jan. 15) men’s final on the slopestyle course set up in Blackcomb’s Highest Level Terrain Park to win the event and a grand prize of $3,000.
In the women’s event, Quebec skier Anouk Purnelle-Faniel also collected $3,000 for first place a day of difficult conditions.
Clouds rolled in at the bottom of the course on Wednesday and the resulting poor visibility forced organizers to turn the event into a one-run final. As McEachran was given direct entry to the final and did not ski in Tuesday’s (Jan. 14) qualifiers, he took full advantage of his only chance to impress the judges.
“The weather wasn’t too good, but I was able to put down a run,” said McEachran, a member of the Canadian slopestyle team’s B Group. “I was happy to be able to take the win.”
The Oakville, Ont., native was joined on the podium by American skiers Chris Laker (85.3) and Mark Nowakisky (82.5). Whistler’s Max Morello finished in eighth spot and fellow locals Taylor Wilson and Dean Bercovitch finished 13th and 15th, respectively, in the 17-skier final.
McEachran put together an impressive run that featured smooth work on the two rail sections, a switch 900 and two double corks, including a right-side 1260 off the last jump. He said he was pretty pleased with the course organizers had assembled.
“It was awesome. The Whistler park crew did a really good job maintaining it and building big jumps and cool rail features, which was good to see,” he said.
McEachran, who finished 21st in last year’s Pipe and Park Open Series slopestyle in Whistler, picked up his first win of the year and his first Gold-level victory on the AFP World Tour.
“I’ve always wanted to win a bigger contest like a Gold event, so with it being the second-highest level of event (on the AFP Tour), that’s pretty huge for me,” he said. “I’m pretty excited.”
Last year, the Whistler stop on the series acted as a last-chance qualifier for the Winter X Games, and McEachran was hopeful that the victory might help get him to this year’s X Games, which get underway Thursday (Jan. 23) in Aspen, Colo. He was not among the listed athletes invited to the X Games at press time, though there was room for one more on the men’s slopestyle start list.
“That would be a childhood dream come true,” McEachran said of competing at Aspen.
There were just five skiers involved in the women’s final and Quebec City’s Purnelle-Faniel topped the field by scoring a 70.5. Ontario skiers Nikki Blackall (66.5) and Shondra Charbonneau (64.5) hit the podium in second and third place.
McEachran is expecting to be back in Whistler later this winter for the AFP World Championships that take place during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. Last year, he posted top-30 finishes in both slopestyle and big air as a 15-year-old and is excited to come back to a place where he’s now been victorious.
“I’d love to be able to do that again,” he said. “It was definitely one of the highlights of the year.”
A full webcast replay and more results are available at www.thenorthfaceppos.com.