Locals added to national freestyle ski teams

D'Artois, Tsubota selected after great 2012 seasons; now focused on Sochi

Canadian Freestyle Ski Association (CFSA) officials have pointed to a youth movement on next season's national team rosters and a couple of local skiers are a big part of that trend.

Pemberton's Yuki Tsubota, 18, was named to the Canadian women's slopestyle team while Whistler's Simon D'Artois, 20, had a spot on the men's halfpipe squad when rosters for the 2013 winter season were revealed last Thursday (May 3).

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"I was pretty excited," D'Artois said of his reaction to being added to the team. "It'll definitely open up some new doors (in terms of) competing and training time."

For Tsubota, being added to the national team is the latest step in what's been a quick rise through the slopestyle ranks after switching over from moguls.

"It's like a dream come true," said Tsubota. "This was really my first year skiing slopestyle and everything has just happened so fast. It's a really big surprise."

Despite 2012 being her first winter focusing on slopestyle, Tsubota had an outstanding season in which she seemed to win everything she entered. She racked up a total of six victories in silver- and bronze-level AFP events and ended the year with what Tsubota picked as her biggest highlight of the season - a podium finish on her home mountain during the World Skiing Invitational.

Tsubota said she thinks her background in moguls is what allowed her to have such a successful first year in slopestyle. But she added that she switched disciplines in the interest of having "a little more freedom" in competition.

"Moguls was getting a little too strict for me," she said.

The 2014 Olympics are now less than two years away and Tsubota said that's the ultimate goal for her. She said the thought of skiing in Sochi wasn't even on the radar this time last year.

"No, definitely not," she laughed. "I was aiming for 2018, but not for Sochi.

"It would be amazing if I could go."

Tsubota will be among a young slopestyle squad that CFSA high performance director David Mirota said he was thrilled about in last week's release announcing the roster.

"Next year's slopestyle team is a veritable teen invasion, with more than half of them under 20," said Mirota. "It's really exciting to see so much young talent coming up."

The Olympics are also the big goal for D'Artois, who was born and raised in Whistler.

"That's the main focus now that I've made the team," he said. "But just in general, just building up my skiing profile and trying to make a career out of everything I do with my skiing (are the goals)."

D'Artois had an impressive 2012 season that included top-20 finishes at all three Winter Dew Tour stops plus other solid results at lower-tier AFP events.

"I got some good results that I'm really happy with in a couple of big competitions and that definitely helped a lot for this selection," he said.

"Winter Dew Tour was a huge thing. I got chosen to do a qualifier, which I wasn't able to do last year, did pretty well in it and got to do the whole tour. That was a pretty big thing for me."

To have access to the funding afforded to national team members is significant for D'Artois, as he's been spending his summers working to save up money and then funneling it into traveling and competing. He said he thinks the team will be a good fit for him based on the connections he already has with the group.

"I've developed some good relationships with everybody and have worked with a few of the team members, including (coach) Marc McDonell," said D'Artois. "He was my coach with the Blackcomb Freestyle Club when I grew up here. I'm super stoked that I get to spend some time with these guys and it's going to be an awesome couple years. I just can't wait to get started."

D'Artois was the only new addition to the Whistler-based halfpipe team for next season. Fellow local residents Eddie Hicks and Chelsea Henitiuk will be back with the national moguls team's B Group, while former world champion and Pemberton resident Kristi Richards is expected to return for a full campaign in 2013 after taking a season off.

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