The lack of snow in Ontario prompted organizers of The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series to relocate part of an event scheduled for this week at Blue Mountain to Whistler. The slopestyle event was cancelled, but top tier halfpipe athletes will be competing in the superpipe this weekend, Jan. 14 and 15.
The North Face PPOS is a gold-level event on the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) calendar, on par with the King of Style, Aspen/Snowmass Open, Dumont Cup and Jon Olsson Invitational. Only platinum events rank higher in the AFP standings, such as the Winter X Games and the AFP World Championships in Whistler in April.
The athletes arrived in Whistler earlier this week for training, with the competition taking place on Sunday. Saturday is the practice day.
The men's pipe qualifiers start at 10 a.m. and the women's at 11:30 a.m. The women's pipe final is at 1 p.m. and the men's pipe final at 2 p.m. Awards will be presented in the village at 4 p.m.
While the entire national halfpipe team is currently training on Blackcomb with an airbag to prepare for X Games and other events, so far only a few up and coming athletes with the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team — Noah Bowman and Megan Gunning — will be competing this weekend, although that could change. All of the athletes will be looking to earn the last available spots at X Games, with just one male and one female spot remaining in the selection. There's also a $10,000 prize purse up for grabs.
"It will be like coming home for a lot of the riders as they competed here last spring in the AFP finals during the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival," said Peter Young, the events and terrain park manager for Whistler Blackcomb. "Steve Petrie of Arena Snow Parks, 2010 Olympic pipe builder, is putting the finishing touches on our 22-foot Global Pipe so it will be in prime condition for the competition."
Another draw for athletes, in addition to the X Games spots and cash, is the fact that Whistler Blackcomb currently has the best conditions in North America, and many resorts haven't had enough snow to build a proper terrain park or halfpipe — much less a superpipe with 22-foot walls.
The event is free to watch, and with registration reopening following the move from Ontario there should be a lot of local talent to cheer on. For more, visit www.thenorthfaceppos.com.