Micah Morris has been skiing since she was eighteen months old, and it shows.
“I was just trying to stomp the big air, whatever looked the coolest,” said Morris after winning the International Freeskiing Association’s (IFSA) Junior Freeski Series’ Fernie event in the girls aged 15 to 18 category.
Morris took home IFSA points and a sack of merchandise, which included a helmet, goggles and other prizes.
Sixty-eight young athletes participated in the three-day event, which concluded Feb. 12.
Each competitor had two runs to display their skiing skills down Fernie Alpine Resort’s gnarly Big Bang run while being judged on five categories – line choice, control, fluidity, technique, and style/energy.
Local skiers placed extremely well.
Fernie resident Shaw Miles took first place in the boys aged seven to 11 category. Nate Hebert, Dale Vasey and Joe Rood combined for a Fernie sweep of the boys aged 12 to 14 category. Saga Ahlstrand placed third in the girls aged 15 to 18 category and Liam Morgan placed second in the boys aged 15 to 18 category.
Jeff Holden, technical director and head judge of the event, explained how the athletes were scored:
Line choice has to do with the difficulty of the line being skied. It is important in determining overall score because it can be tough to amass points on an easy line.
“As these athletes move down the mountain, the more challenging, technical and difficult areas they move through, the more the line score goes up,” he said. “We’re dealing with young athletes in technical terrain in a relatively high impact sport. We do our best to push athletes to ski lines that are within their ability.”
Control wise, the judges are looking for solid, controlled riding. Skiers can lose points for minor losses of control, such as a break in form, or a major loss of control such as a fall or crash.
“We’re super hard on control,” said Holden. “Especially in junior events. Anytime we see control issues, which are a break in the athletes form, they lose points.”
In technique, Holden is looking for solid, balanced riding. He does not want to see any windshield wiping, which are heavy, sloppy and heavily skidded turns.
Fluidity is about keeping it moving, he said.
“It’s kind of like water. You open the tap and water flows down the mountain. You close the tap and you shut off the flow. You can see that anytime an athlete stops, pauses or hesitates they lose points in fluidity,” he said.
Athletes are judged on their style and energy depending on how ferociously they attack the mountain and how daring they are with their tricks.
“Anytime we see tricks the style and energy category goes up,” said Holden. “It’s a really intuitive kind of category.”
Holden stressed that the Junior Freeski Series is more about the gathering of young athletes in the mountains where they can meet new friends, ski new lines and learn the fundamentals of the sport, than it is about winning.
“We like to encourage the athletes to ski the line that they want to ski because they want to ski it. Because it’s fun and fulfilling,” he said. “We try and encourage them not to get too caught up in the scoring and the winning. That’s the essence of what we’re up to out here, having fun.”
Honourable mention has to go to Fernie’s Seth Amundsen who placed eleventh in the boys aged 15 to 18 category but did it with incredible style and poise.
Amundsen got some big air on his second run of the day but over rotated a bit, couldn’t stick the landing, and crashed.
“I’m feeling okay,” he said mere minutes after the event.
“Just went a bit too big and ended up landing in kind of a bomb hole (an impression in the snow produced by landing jumps) it bucked me a bit,” he continued.
His mother Ann Amundsen was among dozens of spectators at the bottom of Big Bang who saw the wipe out.
“He’s been doing this for six years now,” she said. “I don’t get too nervous but then I see that…”