By Andrew Mitchell
A sold-out field of 80 kids aged 9 to 13 took part in last year’s Sports Illustrated for Kids Next Snow Search in Whistler, showing off their skills in a series of events designed to find the best all around skiers and snowboarders.
This year the competition takes place Jan. 13-14, with four of the top competitors from the super qualifier representing Whistler-Blackcomb at the Next Snow finale at Killington, Vermont in March. As well, two of the top athletes will get an invite to the Next Snow Search All-Star event at Steamboat Springs, Colorado in February.
There is room for 100 entries this year, although the cost of registration is already covered for kids who are with the Mountain Adventure Program, J4 program, or Freeride programs. Kids from the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Club, and Whistler Valley Snowboard Club are also expected to be out in force.
Saturday is training day on Blackcomb, with flags showing where the events are to take place. The events this year are a big mountain contest on a pitch to be named, a slopestyle through the Blue Nintendo Park, and a timed run down the snowcross track. The kids will be split into three groups as they tackle the different events between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
From 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. there will be a fun halfpipe session, followed by the announcement of 10 semi-finalists at 3:30 p.m. at 18 Below. Those semi-finalists will take part in the Fire and Ice Show in the village at 6:15 p.m., where they’ll tackle the gap jump. The overall winners will be announced shortly afterwards.
Skill is important, but participants need more than that to qualify. Judges will take age and size into consideration, as well as equipment, physical capability, personality, attitude and style. Kids who are rude or disrespectful will get marked down and will likely be rejected.
The cost is $20 for kids who pre-register at Whistler-Blackcomb Guest Relations, and $25 for people who enter on race day, between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13 in the Rendezvous.