At the halfway point in the summer Molson SnowJam tour, a number of Whistler athletes are well on their way to earning titles and the big cash prizes.
This year the tour has nine stops, including Buffalo, Detroit, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Albany, Toronto, Ottawa and Boston, with quarterpipe events for skiers and snowboarders. The Vancouver event ran last weekend.
Skiers and riders are judged on amplitude (air time), technical merit, rotations, landing and overall impression. With real prize money on the line this year, the tour is attracting big name talent like Keir Dillon and Andrew Hardingham.
In snowboarding, the Whistler scene is represented on the mens side by Justin Lamoureux, Scott Gaffney, David Aubry, Guy Deschesne, Daryl Trinidad, David Melancon, Jesse Kumlea, and Trevor Andrew. Lamoureux, a transplant from Banff, is firmly in charge with 42 points after four events, including one win and three second place finishes.
In the womens group, Whistlers Dominique Vallée has wins in Calgary and Vancouver in her pocket to lead with 16 points. Shes ahead of Megan Pischke, who has 10 points, and Olympic gold medallist Kelly Clark of the U.S. with six.
"Its nice to beat her," said Vallée of Clark. "Shes a really good friend of mine, but its good for the ego."
Vallees trick of choice for the quarterpipe contests is a Michalchuk, or a flat 360 degree spin off the heelside with a method grab and a fakie landing.
Despite the fact that the events are taking place in the summer, Vallée says the snow on the quarterpipe is good, although the run-in takes a little getting used to.
"The run-in is this white carpet from Japan which is pretty weird, and then you hit snow at the bottom which is almost like ice. The pipe itself is pretty good and you can get some pretty good air off of it. The guys are going pretty big," said the 21-year-old, who is member of the national team.
She will be going to Winnipeg this weekend, and then to three events in the east where she will visit her home town of Beaconsfield, Quebec.
"Its just the funnest tour ever," she said of SnowJam. "The crowds are crazy, and you meet a lot of people."
On the skier side, Whistlers Rex Thomas won the last two events and placed in the two previous to stand first in the rankings with 34 points. Hot on his heels with 32 points is Whistlers Mauro Nunez with two second place and one third place finish.
For more information on the tour, visit the official Web site at www.iam.ca.