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Harrison ready to take on the world, again

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For the past two seasons, Canadian skiers have owned the world freeski championships. More specifically, they have been owned by Whistler skiers – Jeff Holden in 1999 and Hugo Harrison in 2000.

Since then, the world has opened up to these skiers. It’s put them on airplanes to Alaska and Europe, in movies and photo shoots, and provided them with the support for what they love to do best – cliff drops, steep chutes, and big mountain skiing.

When the Canadian Freeskiing Championships ramp up this weekend only Harrison will be in the lineup.

Holden, who seems far too sane for the cliffs he drops (a 150-footer in the recent released ski film Parental Advisory), was injured for most of last season, and recently injured his knee while skateboarding on a vert ramp in Maui.

For his part, Harrison says he is healthy and doing his best to train in the less than perfect snow conditions.

"I try to do as much as I can, but the conditions are not so good," says Harrison. "I try to motivate myself every day, but it’s not easy.

"I try to ski as many different things as I can, (trees, alpine, backcountry) to try to get good at it. You do better if you can ski anything."

During the week and in the finals, Harrison says the lack of snow will have a big influence on the lines he chooses. "It will be different this year, that’s for sure, I won’t be able to take the same lines. I’ll try to work on making little cliffs at high speed, not going big but being consistent and smooth."

Harrison says winning the title last season has definitely opened doors, but nothing will change until the snow hits. From January to April he will be skiing in competitions and making movies. "I’m going to be so busy."

For the past two years, Whistler-Blackcomb’s Mike Varrin has organized fund-raisers for Whistler’s promising freeskiers, supporting Holden and Harrison. If Varrin’s Midas touch continues, then watch out for Pierre LeBlanc, a friend of Harrison’s who Varrin helped out with a pass.

In the women’s competition, Whistler’s Jen Ashton was primed to win the title last year before a serious injury took her out of the competition. She says she is healthy this year, and plans to make every event on the tour.

"I don’t really train at all, I just ski. Actually, I think (downhill) mountain biking is great training, because it’s fast, technical, the ground’s hard, and you learn to control your fear. Skiing on snow is a treat for me."

Other top freeskiers to watch for include big mountain skier Chris Eby and Lee Ann Patterson.

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