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Pehota powers his way to Alaska

Sophomore skier rebounding after tough start

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Logan Pehota was suffering through bit of a sophomore slump on the Freeride World Tour.

The venue for the first two competitions, Vallnord-Arcalis, Andorra, wasn't providing last year's overall runner-up any favours, as he posted finishes of 18th and 17th, so a change of scenery was certainly helpful.

When the site shifted to Fieberbrunn, Austria, the 22-year-old Pembertonian found his stride, placing second and making the jump to ninth overall among male skiers.

"I hadn't done too well in the first two competitions, which was unfortunate, and I guess I just felt like it was time to do well," he said. "The competition before, I tried to ski a line that was going to put me on top of the podium but unfortunately I fell."

Pehota's season was on the line in Austria on March 8, as he had to leapfrog a number of skiers in order to get himself in the top dozen competitors on tour to avoid being among the half of them not invited to Haines, Alaska and Verbier, Switzerland.

"This competition was crunch time, they were calling it. It was the final competition before they made the cut for Alaska," he said. "I had to come first or second to make it to the next competition.

"I had to land the run."

It would have been especially heartbreaking for Pehota to miss the next competition in Haines, especially as he looks to defend his title.

"Hopefully I can do a little repeat of that and stay on top. It's the one North American stop, so that'd be nice," he said.

One nuisance for Pehota were low-snow conditions in Andorra, where two competitions were hosted after strong winds forced the relocation of the Chamonix event. In addition to not getting the best snow to ski on tour, there's also the opportunity cost of what he's missed with a solid season in the Sea to Sky.

"I haven't skied powder in quite some time. I've had one powder day in 2017, pretty much, and that was last week in Austria. The first two competitions, it looked like there was a 50-centimetre base kind of thing. It was spring conditions the whole time," he said. "That was very depressing, a bit of a bummer, for sure, that I've been missing the fun part of skiing."

On tour, Pehota acknowledged that the thin snow affected the way he's approached competition while putting him at a bit of a disadvantage.

"I don't want to push my limits, necessarily, in conditions that aren't (good). A lot of these guys on the tour, they like to send it no matter what, so it's definitely a different mind-state for my runs," he said, noting that he wasn't used to "competing at the level we are competing (at) in such bad conditions."

While Pehota was discouraged heading into Austria, a timely dump of snow helped get him back into a positive place and helped boost his morale at Fieberbrunn.

"When I left, I heard there was no snow, so that was a bummer, and when we got there, there wasn't much snow. But the day before the competition it snowed maybe 30 cm, so I had a little treat the day before. I finally got to ski some powder with some of my friends," he said. "When the competition came around, there was some snow left on the face, so we actually got to ski somewhat decent conditions.

"Skiing at the level that we do, it was nice to ski in conditions that were appropriate for it."

Going into Haines, which also has been affected by a lighter-than-usual winter, Pehota hopes it will receive a reprieve by the time the competition is held. At the very least, he knows he has the tools to conquer the mountains of the north.

"It has me feeling like I'm leaving the snow once again," he said. "I'm hoping by the time I get there that it's good to go. That's the plan.

"It shows that I have what it takes to do it again. Last year wasn't a surprise, I guess, but it was definitely a shocker and a great feeling to actually win the competition."

Whistlerite Lauren Cameron was 10th in Fieberbrunn, edging out fellow Canadian Kylie Sivell in the ski event. As for the snowboarders, Canadian Audrey Hebert hit the women's podium in third.

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