Young skiers sprayed snow and launched off rocks at Fernie Alpine Resort on February 8 and 9, competing in Jeep’s Junior Freeski competition–a regional event hosted by the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA), and presented by Smith Optics and Rossignol.
After receiving a healthy seventeen centimetres of snow on Friday night, the event kicked off with the qualifiers on Saturday, followed by the finals on Sunday, making for a frenzied weekend of excited athletes and cheering crowds.
Freesking, a form of alpine skiing, is a relatively new event that has recently seen an exponential increase in popularity. While there are different categories of freeskiing, the big mountain events hosted by the IFSA differ from traditional ski racing or park riding. These freeriding events allow athletes to show off their skills on ungroomed terrain, speckled with natural features such as stumps, rocks, and cliffs.
In this specific event, youth aged 7-18 competed against each other in three age categories: 7-11, 12-14, and 15-18. Skiing down the black diamond run Big Bang, riders were adjudicated on five categories: line choice, technique, style/energy, control, and fluidity. However, with commentator Connor Anderson rousing the crowd after every spread eagle and 360, it was clear that scoring was hardly the focus at this weekend’s event.
“These are probably the most supportive competitions that you’ll ever go to,” said big mountain coach for Fernie’s female freestyle team, Connie Henderson. “Everyone’s stoked on everyone. If someone falls, everyone’s bummed. If everyone stomps, everyone’s stoked. It’s not competitive at all–everyone wants everyone to do as good as one another.”
The IFSA created these youth events to encourage young riders to further develop their big mountain skills by challenging themselves through friendly competition. Youth freeriding competitions are often a catalyst for adolescent athletes, igniting a passion for skiing that often turns into long and successful careers as professional riders.
This being said, Henderson made a point to highlight that the true purpose of these events is giving youth an opportunity to showcase their talents and develop their skills in a fun environment. More important than winning, is the encouragement of growth, camaraderie, and support among these budding athletes.
“I like hyping everyone up at the top. Keep the vibe high!” cheered Nell Cline-Smith, one of the competitors in Sunday’s finals, who mirrored the undeniable elation pumping through the crowd.
These events are proudly supported by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR), as they encourage both children and adults to pursue healthy, active lifestyles through the enjoyment of sports; an objective the organization is committed to supporting.
RCR hosts various other freeriding events at their resorts throughout the winter, with the next event in the Jeep Junior Freeski Series being held at Kimberley Alpine Resort on the weekend of February 22-23.