By Andrew Mitchell
Up against a field of 75 athletes, the best of the best from qualifier events across North America, Whistler’s chosen ones more than held their own at the Sports Illustrated for Kids Next Snow Search All Stars contest at Steamboat, Colorado last weekend.
Representing Sea to Sky region after a super qualifier in January were Pemberton’s Yuki Tsubota and Logan Pehota, both skiers.
Pehota, 11 years old, faced kids as old as 15 in park, pipe and skicross. He managed to finish ninth in the halfpipe and 16 th in slopestyle, but more amazingly placed third overall in the skicross — the one event that wasn’t judged.
“It’s not my favourite event, but I really like it because it’s one of the things I can do really well in,” said Pehota, who is a K1 with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. “I just had a nice line. The other skiers were almost twice as heavy as I was, and there were a lot of airs, really big airs on the course. The conditions were really nice.”
Training with the WMSC helped him to pick the best line, he said, as well as some racing technique and how to look for speed on the course. Pehota placed second in the first Atomic Ski and Snowboard Cross event in Whistler two weeks ago, behind a skier almost two years older.
Pehota’s favourite event is the halfpipe. Although he said the first hit was in bad shape, the pipe was in good shape further down and he felt more comfortable airing out over the wall. Not that he’s spent that much time in the park or pipe this year — “I’ve only really gone in the park a couple of days,” he said.
Watching the older kids was inspirational, however. Now that he’s qualified to jump at the ramps behind the Glacier Lodge, he plans to work on his misty 540s, 720s and Lincoln Loops.
“I liked (Next Snow) because all the kids there were throwing down really hard tricks like switch corked 1080s, and it was fun to go up against kids who were twice the size of me,” he said.
Yuki Tsubota did not have as much competition, but placed third in slopestyle, skiercross and big air, and fourth in halfpipe to rank third overall and make the All Star team.
“It was fun, one of the biggest competitions I’ve ever been to, she said. “All the jumps were pretty big there. It was a smaller park than here, but it was really good.”
Tsubota, who has turned out to most local events this year — including the Whistler-Blackcomb Park Rider Sessions, Atomic Ski and Snowboard Cross, and King of the Rail — celebrated her 13 th birthday at the competition. She has every intention of going back again next year.
“It was just a really big event, there was a lot of stuff to do, the people were really nice, and all the television people were there filming everybody. They made it really fun for the athletes,” she said.
Although she did well in every event, she prefers slopestyle.
“I like slopestyle the best, but I really like racing in the skiercross. It was good that you got to do everything,”
Vernon’s Cameron Shuster also qualified at the Whistler event, and placed third in the halfpipe against the top skiers in the competition — including some athletes who recently competed in the U.S. Open.
Whistler’s Kerry-Anne Hamilton also qualified last year and made the trip to Steamboat, but was injured while training.
The Next Snow Search Finals take place in March in Killington, Vermont. The athletes that qualified at the super qualifier in Whistler are Brin Alexander, Max Ripper, Cameron Shuster and Hunter Vissar.
For more on the Next Snow Search, visit www.nextsnow.com.