French skiers dominate mens competition
Some unexpected rain, warm weather and a long gap between snowfalls left the high alpine tracked out and hard for the Canadian Freesking Championships last week, but that didnt stop some of the best big mountain skiers in the world from putting on a show.
The competition was tight from the beginning, pushing athletes to go harder and bigger than you would have thought possible. While Whistler athletes have dominated at home in past years, this year they faced a strong, experienced international field that by now is familiar with the terrain on Blackcomb Mountain.
Whistler Freeride Team member Jenn Ashton skied hard and consistently to claim her third consecutive Canadian title, plus 50 points towards her goal of repeating as the overall International Free Skiers Association (IFSA) World Tour champion.
Ashton finished second on the first day of competition in Ruby Bowl, on Jan. 10, with a score of 30.8.
Jenna Funston from Big Sky, Montana held the lead going into the second day of competition with a score of 35.8. She couldnt capitalize on the second day, stalling in a few sections.
Ashton was consistent once again, skiing as fast as the conditions would allow and using as much of the terrain as possible in Diamond Bowl..
For Ashton, who is renowned for skiing tight lines and dropping, the conditions were frustrating.
"It was just too hard packed to drop anything big, or even slightly big. Nothing over 10 feet anyway," she said.
On competition days, Ashton decided against two lines she had picked out earlier that week because they werent safe. Instead, her strategy was to use as much of the rock and tree areas on the side of the bowl as she could to increase the difficulty level of her run. Competitors are judged on line choice, control, technique, fluidity and aggression.
"The middle of the run was pretty boring, and the judges like the skiers to push their abilities, so the more features you can use, little jumps and drops and things, the better," said Ashton. "At the same time youre nervous because you are competing, and you want to lay down the best run that you can. You cant second-guess yourself."
Not only did the conditions take away a lot of the lines that Ashton would otherwise have skied, it also made endurance a factor.
"It was very physically demanding," she said.
"How often do you do a full Diamond Bowl run from top to bottom? Your legs get burned, you get tired. Especially with the conditions, your body and your legs are working so much harder. Youre always bouncing and use a lot more energy. It may look easy, but its really hard."