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Freeride Club to host North Americans

IFSA announces major junior competition coming to Whistler Blackcomb



The Whistler Freeride Club (WFC) has had the joy of welcoming the country to the resort the past two years.

This spring, they'll welcome the continent.

Earlier this month, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) announced the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA) awarded WB the 2016 North American Junior Freeride Championships from April 6 to 9. The mountain has hosted the GoPro Junior Freeski Challenge the past two years and will welcome the event once again this March.

WFC head coach Derek Foose said being at home will provide a significant boost to the local qualifiers.

"Home-field advantage should be huge for us," Foose said. "We've had great results in the last two nationals that were in Whistler.

"We've had kids on every podium and last year, the top step of every podium was kids from our club. That's not something that really happens."

The competitors will be based on the season's results, so who exactly will be tackling the course is still to be determined. Additionally, organizers will wait and see how the mountain is looking closer to the date before deciding exactly where the contestants will perform.

Foose said choosing one spot over another shouldn't make a major difference to the top skiers, who are generally able to work with whatever boundaries are provided.

"It seems to me after being to a few of these that skiers that are the most consistent over the season are probably going to be the ones that continue that streak into North American championships," he said. "Everyone there has earned their results based on their results and consistency. I wouldn't say there's one type of skier that it will favour. Anyone that makes it there is a contender to do well."

WB's events supervisor Cate Webster explained there were some challenges with last season's national event, but the general dearth of snow forced the competition into an advantageous spot for an audience.

"We know where some of the locations are where we would like to hold it, but it really all depends on how much it snows between now and then. Last year, we were in a lower snow situation so we were using runs off the Peak chair — they have Surprise (ski run)," she said. "There were lots of features and little rocky things, but if we get a ton of snow, that area is just steep and flat. It's not very interesting, so we likely wouldn't go back to that same zone.

"Where it was last year was really nice because we had parents and families. Everybody could watch what was going on, so it gave a real festive feel."

Webster explained WB's relationship with the IFSA has blossomed after two successful national events, and said the governing body approached them about jumping up a level this year as well.

Foose explained the club has seen vast growth already this season, noting the local interest is part of a wider wave of freeskiing popularity. He noted the IFSA grew from 1,000 skiers three years ago to 1,600 last year and anticipates that number jumped again for this season. Of course, the local cause has been helped by the return to "normal" with snow conditions that have improved greatly over last season.

Club members have taken part in an "intensive dryland program" since September, he said, so "everyone's fit and strong."

Foose said the club grew to 70 members from 50 last year, and there are 30 competitive athletes, up from 25.

Two club members, Jackson Bathgate and Tom Peiffer, have some extra excitement this season as they will attend the Freeride Junior World Championships in Grandvalira, Andorra from Jan. 28 to 30. Bathgate will be the local veteran competing, having placed 17th at last year's proceedings, also in Andorra. Foose will once again accompany the Canadian squad as a coach.


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