Luke Smart kicked off 2017-18 with a bang, scoring his first-ever Canadian Open Tour victory way up north in Yukon Territory on Nov. 25.
The former Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club and current B.C. Team member sat second after his first run with a 72.6, but turned up the heat in his second attempt, putting up a blistering 89.2 to knock off Yukon's Etienne Geoffroy-Gagnon (87.8) and Quebec's Mathieu Dufresne (86.0).
"It's a good feeling. This is the first time I've won on the Canadian Open Tour so, especially with it being the first event of the season, it's super exciting," he said.
Conditions were frigid at Mount Sima with temperatures dropping to minus-30.
"That was kind of rough and it was challenging to get over that," Smart said, noting there were some fire pits and other warming options up top for athletes to use before they dropped in.
Smart was the lone competitor to score above 70 on both his runs, but most skiers drastically improved their scores the second time around, making it critical for him to do the same.
"I got the energy off of everyone else. Everyone was going down and despite the cold and everything, it was an exciting event," he said.
Even though Smart scored well on his first attempt, it admittedly wasn't what he envisioned as he had to improvise after a mistake. He corrected it, blazing through the rail section, with a second chance to top the field.
"My first run, I ended up messing up my initial plan on the rails so I had to basically make up a new run as I was going down," he said. "On the second run, I did pretty much what I had planned."
Smart will continue on this tour while also competing on the NorAm Cup circuit this season. He hopes his initial event helps set the table for his campaign.
"I want to try to be consistent at all the other competitions throughout the year," Smart said.
Other local skiers also performed well at the event, with Chase Ujejski placing ninth, Anders Ujejski 11th and Kai Smart taking 14th in the men's contest. On the women's side, Skye Clarke took home a bronze medal with a score of 70.6, edging teammate Josephine Howell's 68.8 as she took fourth.
In big air action, Chase Ujejski placed seventh and Luke Smart 14th.
Freestyle athletes also got good news this past weekend as the Ullr Gala held at the Audain Art Museum proved to be a successful night for the Freestyle National Training Centre for Blackcomb Mountain. The evening reached its goal of covering the cost of the airbag at the training site on Catskinner.