By Andrew Mitchell
Whistler’s Craig Beaulieu did everything right this past week, making the podium in all four events he entered at the Telus Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival. He also won over the crowds, leading the public voting component of the Pontiac Peak Performer contest that gave away a Pontiac G5 GT to the athlete with the best results and most votes.
It all started at the Old Spice Big Air on April 14, where Beaulieu placed second. He then went on to win the McDonald’s Stompede on Sunday, and the Coca Cola Rail Session on Thursday night to take the lead heading into the second weekend of the festival. Snowboarder Molly Milligan (first in Stompede, second in the Rail Session) and skier Charles Gagnier (second in Big Air, second in Stompede and third in Rail Session) were also in the running.
Gagnier came the closest to Beaulieu, but wouldn’t make it back to the podium in the Superpipe or Playstation Big Air.
Coca Cola Rail Session
There was a slightly different format for this year’s Rail Session, with skiers and riders having a choice of a down rail and a flat box to down box with a gap in the middle. The set-up allowed for a lot of creativity, but was complicated a bit by the fact the fence to the finish corral was fairly high up the transition. The trade-off was that spectators were able to get up close and trade hand slaps with the skiers and riders.
On the ski side, Charles Gagnier set the tone early with a 270 spin onto the down rail, and a 270 off to a switch landing, after spinning in the opposite direction. But it was Sammy Carlson who stole the show, with huge spins, big air and switch landings off of everything. At the end of the hour, when athletes were exhausted from hiking back to the top of the run, Carlson was sprinting back to the top to try out new variations, including a run where he was constantly switching his edges that got the biggest cheer of the night.
For the women, Sarah Burke started the evening strong with 270s on and off the boxes, but couldn’t seem to land anything cleanly in the last half hour. Angela Battersby picked up Burke’s early momentum, and got progressively better as the night went on to take the win.
For the snowboarders, Craig Beaulieu established himself as the guy to beat early on through the sheer variety of tricks on both the rail and boxes and a switch-up nose press that got the crowd excited. No two runs were the same, and he landed virtually everything.