There are a few new faces on the Whistler Freeride Team this year, including some of the top skiers and snowboarders on the planet.
The men’s side has added 2001 X-Games boardercross champion Scott Gaffney, 2001 Big Mountain Freeskiing World Champion Ryan Oakden, former Olympic downhiller Roman Torn (a finalist in the 2001 X-Games skier cross), World Cup telemark skier Scott McLorie, and former Canadian Snowboard Team member Nelson Jensen.
The list of returning men includes Hugo Harrison (2000 and 2001 World Freeski Champion); Jeff Holden (1999 World Freeski Champion), new school aerialists Mike Douglas and Shane Szocs; film stars Richie Schley and Smiley Nesbitt; snowboard stars Kevin Sansalone, Matt Domanski and Shin Campos; and long-time Whistler legends Eric Pehota, Brian Savard, John Smart and Rob Boyd.
"It’s pretty exciting to see all the new blood on the team this year," says Boyd. "In fact, it’s really fun to see the Whistler legend grow. Besides, these young bucks are sure to keep us old guys on our toes."
The women’s program for 2002 is the largest and most ambitious yet. The list of newcomers includes World Cup halfpipe champion Natasza Zurek, X-Games champion Maelle Ricker, and World Cup skier Britt Janyk.
"In the freeride world, Whistler women have made just as big an impact as the men have," says Freeride Team founder and manager Michel Beaudry. "And that’s a point we really wanted to drive home this year. With athletes like Britt, Natasza and Maelle joining such stellar WFT riders as Jenn Ashton, Lee Ann Patterson and Sheri Newstead, I think our point is made quite well."
The Whistler Freeride Team was established to act as ambassadors for Whistler at home and away, whether they’re competing or giving presentations on avalanche safety at Lower Mainland schools.
The WFT goals are to encourage young skiers and riders to make snow sports an integral part of their lives; to promote Whistler-Blackcomb as the centre of the snow sport universe; and to ensure that Whistler-Blackcomb remains on the leading edge of the global freeride movement.