Yuki Tsubota's hot streak continued at the perfect time.
The Pembertonian had hit the podium in three consecutive competitions leading into the World Skiing Invitational (WSI) on Blackcomb Mountain, including taking silver in both the slopestyle and big air events at the Sony SnowCrown in Ontario last month.
At WSI, Tsubota cruised to a gold-medal showing in slopestyle and followed it up with a big air bronze.
With both slopestyle finals delayed after uncooperative weather on Friday (April 10), the 21-year-old went up and stomped an admittedly safe run to take the title. The sixth-ranked slopestyle skier on the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) sat third after scoring 72.33 in her first attempt, but was the only competitor to crack 80 with a score of 80.50 in turn two. It was her third slopestyle podium in a row and fourth overall.
"I was able to lock in a grab for all my tricks and I think the judges were looking for that," she said. "I took it pretty easy. (I did) something I knew I was going to get. I had a bit of trouble the last training day going into the second-jump switch, so I took that out. We only got four training runs this morning, too, so I wasn't going to throw that in there.
"I just wanted to go out and have fun."
Katie Summerhayes of Great Britain was second with a score of 78.33 and Montreal's Kim Lamarre was third with an even 74.00. Whistler resident Cassie Sharpe placed ninth with a 42.50.
The women's finals were set well in advance of Saturday's showdown, but the men had only six of 16 total competitors locked in. Those 10 spots were determined on Friday, but not without some consternation in Tsubota's observation.
"We all went up there (Friday), but I was pretty confident we weren't going to ski," the 2014 Winter Olympian said. "The weather was so bad. Watching the boys try to finish the qualifier runs, they were coming up short on the jumps.
"We could easily tell that we weren't going to compete."
She said conditions were much improved for the rescheduled finals, noting "the sun came out" and competitors were pleasantly surprised Saturday morning even with a little wind.
She was awarded the big air bronze medal later in the day.
Tsubota appreciated the opportunity to cap the year on her home hill.
"This is my favourite event of the year. It's nice to be home," she said. "It's the last contest of the year and it's not a whole lot of pressure.
"I love being able to ski in front of all my friends, and my family comes out and watches, so it's fun."
On the men's side, legendary competitor Bobby Brown of Breckenridge, Colo. captured the men's title with a score of 88.67, edging fellow American McRae Williams of Park City, Utah, who tallied 87.92. Antoine Adelisse of France was third with a score of 86.25.
In terms of the local contingent, Teal Harle was the highest finisher, placing fifth with an 83.08. Taylor Wilson and Simon d'Artois were 12th and 13th, respectively.
Americans stomp halfpipe in its WSI return
A pair of Americans took the top prize in the halfpipe's return to the WSI on Sunday afternoon (April 12).
Torin Yater-Wallace of Colorado and Anna Drew of Massachusetts (90.33) each topped 90 points en route to winning the event's first halfpipe competition since 2012.
Yater-Wallace, a perennial X Games medallist at just 19, said the pipe conditions were the best they've been all week and overcame a sore ankle that kept him out of this weekend's big air and slopestyle showdowns.
Yater-Wallace topped 90 points in both his runs, ending with a 94.00 after opening with a 90.33, in his first time in the pipe since February.
"It was the snow making it slow, so if it's not too snowy, that's pretty much the best," the 2014 Winter Olympian said. "There was a couple snowy times today, but for the most part, we all made due and made the best of what we had and things ended up going alright."
Noting most participants showed off some sort of double, Yater-Wallace said the double flatspin he selected wasn't en vogue for other competitors, so that choice helped him stand out.
"You just go back up and my mindset is just to clean everything up, make it as perfect as possible, and of course, go as big as I can," he said. "That just ups your score. I've seen the whole crowd, I know what to base it off of."
Drew, meanwhile, suffered a broken collarbone earlier this year, but she didn't miss a competition. However, the 21 year old wonders if some time off in retrospect would have been ideal, as she's only felt right within the last couple of weeks. In any event, she was in fine form on Sunday, impressing judges with an alley oop flatspin 540 transitioning to the 900 to help her jump from second to first after her initial run.
"Just putting a run down with grabs to my feet (helped)," she said. "I was a little iffy on a few tricks my first run, so just cleaning those up and I knew that I could do it."
Fellow American Lyman Currier (88.67) was second and New Zealander Byron Wells (87.67) was third in the men's competition. Simon d'Artois was the top local in fifth, while Mike Riddle was eighth, Riley Culver was 24th and Taylor Wilson was 29th. Canadian Matt Margetts was fourth, less than a point off the podium, after scoring 87.00
In the women's event, Edmonton's Keltie Hansen (88.33) was second and American Devin Logan (80.33) was third.
Organizers also held a superhit competition on Sunday. The men's winner was Alex Ferreira and the women's winner was Hansen.
Veteran, rookie top big air podium
A first-timer and a veteran emerged victorious in the Gibbons Big Air event at the World Skiing Invitational on Saturday.
On the men's side, longtime attendee Vincent Gagnier of Victoriaville, Que. emerged as the champion, while Swiss native Giulia Tanno was crowned on the women's side.
Gagnier (88.50) knocked off second-place finisher James Woods (84.83) and third-place skier Elias Ambuehl (82.33) while Tanno (83.50) topped Katie Summerhayes (79.50) and Pemberton's Yuki Tsubota (77.50).
Gagnier, 21, is coming off a season in which he already won the X Games gold medal in big air. He was pleased with how he landed his dub bio 12 octo and felt it lifted him to victory.
"I did some difficult tricks and went big and executed well," Gagnier said. "It's been the best season so far."
WSI rookie Tanno, just 16, wasn't entirely sure what to expect with the competition. She felt she could do well after landing her first run skiing switch, but to find herself above everyone else left her "super happy."
"I didn't think I could win first," she said after the awards presentation in Whistler Village on Saturday night. "(I thought I could be) maybe on the podium, but never on top of it."
Local Taylor Wilson was just one-third of a point off the men's podium in fourth, while Riley Culver was seventh, Teal Harle 19th and Simon d'Artois 20th. Local Cassie Sharpe, meanwhile, was 10th on the women's side.
Skier injured at WSSF showing signs of improvement
A Utah skier was admitted to hospital in critical condition after crashing during women's competition at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) on Saturday (April 11).
Jamie Crane-Mauzy of Park City was airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital after crashing as she attempted to land a double flat in competition at the World Skiing Invitational, her family said in a statement on her Facebook page on April 13. Crane-Mauzy was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
Sister and fellow freeskier Jeanee Crane-Mauzy updated her sister's condition on her own Facebook page on the morning of April 14, noting doctors had taken her off the sedation and she was moving her arm.
"I can tell she feels everyone's love, support and energy," Jeanee said in a release on April 13. She encouraged anyone wishing to pass along support should use the hashtag #MoCrazyStrong.
Crane-Mauzy, 22, became the first female freeskier to land a double backflip in competition at the 2013 X Games in Aspen, Colo. She was the second-ranked women's skier overall and was fifth in slopestyle, ninth in big air and 10th in halfpipe this season.
At the family's request for privacy, WSSF organizers did not release a statement on the injury, noting updates will be posted on Crane-Mauzy's Facebook page at Facebook.com/MoCrazy.
With the World Skiing Invitational in the books, the Monster Energy Shred Show will grab attention for boarders this weekend.
Friday (April 17) will take over the Blackcomb Terrain Park for the boarderstyle competition from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. while the slopestyle competition will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 18.
On the evening of April 18, there will also be a freestyle motocross event in Skiers' Plaza from 7 to 10 p.m.