Big air, superpipe events planned this weekend
Although its only in its third year with the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, the World Skiing Invitational, sponsored by Garnier Fructis, has grown in size and stature to become one of the most important events on the freeskiing calendar. Freeskier Magazine, another major sponsor, has billed it as "The Mother of all Freeskiing Events."
The Invitational features a big air event under the lights at the village base of Whistler Mountain, and a superpipe competition followed by an athlete-judged SuperHit contest.
Organizers are expecting up to 15,000 fans for the Orage Big Air competition, which includes live music, go-go dancers, and fireworks. Training runs take place on Friday, April 19, from 4 to 6 p.m., and the main event runs from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday.
The superpipe and SuperHit take place on Blackcomb during the day Saturday.
The list of athletes is long and distinguished, and naturally includes a number of locals. Many of the most influential skiers in the freeski movement are now living and training in Whistler, where they are constantly pushing one another to go bigger and try more difficult tricks. The local talent pool runs deep.
Whistlers own Mike Douglas, whos returning to compete this year after a two-year hiatus, was part of the selection committee. He gave us his assessment of each competitor.
Mark Abma (big air, superpipe) "Young local kid, skis the park a lot. Never count him out."
Iannick "B" Brouillette (big air) "Strong slopestyle competitor, did well at the X-Games this year. Hes really progressive, and kind of in the background of the scene right now but probably will be becoming a bigger name soon."
Phil Belanger (big air, superpipe) "One of the smoothest, most stylish riders in the world. He spent a lot of time focusing on the halfpipe this year, and is one of the guys to beat in the pipe for sure."
Christopher Booth (big air) "Young kid, really smooth and really stylish. Well have to see how he holds up against the big guys."
David Crichton (big air, superpipe) "One of the best in the world right now, a great competitor. I saw him stick a switch 1260 (spin) this year, and Ive never seen that before. If hes on this year hes going to be really tough to beat."
Vinnie Dorion (big air, superpipe) "Struggled to reach the podium this year, but if he can put his jumps down in the big air, look for him to be taking home the big money again."