The Whistler Freeride Club had to adapt to a last-minute relocation for the Jeep Junior Freeski Series, which was scheduled to take place in Fernie last weekend (Feb. 19 – 22).
While Fernie Alpine Resort remains open, organizers were concerned that the hard-packed snow at the competition venue would not soften sufficiently during the day and would be unsafe for competitors.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort stepped up with less than one week’s notice and while athletes and coaches were grateful to still have the event go ahead, the change of logistics at the eleventh hour was challenging for
“We had to change accommodation, change everything really,” said WFC coach Gavin Phillipson. “But we’re very happy that (the organizers changed the venue) because Kicking Horse had some pretty good snow conditions.”
The face chosen for the competition — known locally as Marley’s — had the ideal terrain and snow quality for a freeski event with sunny and cold conditions. “The nice thing is that there were lots of steep landings,” said Phillipson. “It wasn’t powder by any means, but it’s firm and consistent snow and it’s actually kind of nice because the venue doesn’t change between inspection runs and the event. It’s more predictable.”
Results for the WFC athletes were not as strong as at the Canadian Open at Red Mountain last month, but there were plenty of top five and top 10 finishes. Olivia McNeill, who had a stellar first run at the Canadian Open, but fell to third after a crash in her final run, laid down two tight runs at Kicking Horse to win first place in the 12 – 14 girls category.
The 12 – 14 boys title went to Whitewater’s Jesse Thurston, but WFC kids Cole Alexander and Eric Peiffer followed closely in second and third place, respectively.
“Those guys had wicked runs,” said Phillipson. “Eric won the day (on Day 2) and Cole was 0.04 points behind him, putting them into second and third. They were skiing the lines that the 15-18 year olds were skiing the
In the girls 15-18, Carlene Loughlin and Meghan Platt skied consistently both days to place fourth and fifth, respectively. The boys 15-18 saw Jackson Bathgate and Tom Peiffer place fifth and sixth with Whitewater’s Sam Kuch well ahead for the win, four points ahead of the runner up Sam Woodward. Kuch spun a 360 off the biggest feature on the face and landed flawlessly, which Jackson attempted as well, but rode out on his tails and received appropriate point deductions from the judges.
“(The judges) don’t want to encourage a wingnut mentality,” said Phillipson. “If you do something big, you’ve got to do it right. Jackson’s control issue is what kept him in fifth, whereas his line score was pretty high to begin with.”
Cooper Bathgate chose not to compete in Kicking Horse, taking a break from competing this month before attending the Junior Big Mountain Challenge at Lake Louise March 5 - 8. WFC will be sending seven athletes, with the remainder of the squad staying in Whistler to train or the GoPro Junior Freeski Challenge March 19 - 22.
For full results head to freeskiers.org.