Story and photos by John Chalmers
On the weekend of Aug. 22-23, members of the Fernie Freestyle Ski Club were flying off a ski jump and landing in water below the ramp of the Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club at Red Deer, Alberta.
Ten boys from 10 to 16 years of age made the trip with their parents to the facility for training in preparation for winter skiing. Racing down a ramp surfaced with plastic “snow,” the skiers wear helmets, short wet suits, and life jackets for safety when making splash landings in a large pond.
After warming up on the facility’s trampoline to practice jumps, flips and landings, the young athletes were ready for the ramp. Depending on skill and experience, their maneuvers included straightforward jumps, single or double back flips and other moves such as a “cork seven,” a “360,” or a “back cross,” in which the skier crosses skis in the air, then lines them up for landing.
After climbing up the steps to their launch point and getting in position for a jump, each skier waits for a signal from coach Luka Sinhart to launch. Then without hesitation and showing full confidence in their ability, the skiers speed down the slope, become airborne off the ramp, and splash down.
“Besides developing their skills, the athletes build confidence in themselves and enjoy a sense of accomplishment,” says Freestyle Club president Troy Nixon, “and they have fun hurling themselves through the air! Their skills are progression based as the athletes become certified for back flips and other tricks on the water ramp so they can do them later on snow.” For parents and grandparents who may worry about any risk, perhaps they can take heart from Troy’s son, Andrew, who says “Nobody gets hurt in the air!”
Enthusiasm for summer ramp skiing is evident by the practice sessions filling up with registrants. Two more such events planned for the ski club will be held in Red Deer on September 19-20 and at Oliver on September 26-27. The popularity of freestyle skiing is seen in the number of boys and girls in the Fernie Freestyle Ski Club, which has over 108 enthusiastic members and a web site at ferniefreestyle.ca.