Whistler's Simon d'Artois saved his best for the last big halfpipe event of the season, and wound up earning the best result of his career.
The national halfpipe ski team member landed on the podium during the SFR Freestyle Tour stop in Tignes, France, on March 19, finishing third behind French skiers Kevin Rolland and Benoit Valentin.
It's the first time that d'Artois has earned a top-three finish at an AFP World Tour platinum-level event — the status reserved for the biggest contests of the season, such as Winter X Games and U.S. Grand Prix stops.
With no halfpipe competition at this year's World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) in Whistler, the SFR Tour event was the final platinum-level contest in the pipe this season, and it gave d'Artois a chance to build on what's been a breakout year.
"For some athletes, it can be the turning point in their career," d'Artois said of getting his first platinum podium. "For me, I'm really hoping that this kind of gets me out there a little bit more, gets me a little bit more recognition and I can step through the doorway to the next level.
"I've been waiting such a long time to get a podium at a platinum-level event, so just to be on the podium with Kevin Rolland and Benoit is really amazing for me. I couldn't have been happier."
Canadian teammate and Olympic silver medallist Mike Riddle was the top qualifier in Tignes, but couldn't hold a clean run together in the final and finished eighth.
The result came just days after d'Artois skied to a victory during the Snowcrown Ski and Snowboard Festival at Ontario's Blue Mountain. A victory in that gold-level event was satisfying for d'Artois, but not quite as much as finishing third against a world-class field in France.
"I've been improving every single competition," said d'Artois. "That's built my confidence up and I feel really strong on my skis."
His impressive finals run, which garnered a score of 91.00 from judges (Rolland won with a 94.20), featured a new trick combination that d'Artois has been working on for sometime but never busted out in competition before.
"Linking the two last tricks — the double flat 7 into the switch 10 — I'd never done that before," said d'Artois. "That was the run of my life, and the feeling that I had immediately after I landed my last trick was just insane. I've never felt like that before."
With no majoy halfpipe events left on the 2013-14 winter calendar, the result also means d'Artois will almost certainly finish the season with a top-10 ranking in the AFP men's pipe standings, as he's now moved up to No. 8.
This week, d'Artois was scheduled to compete in the Shred It with Kevin Rolland invitational event at La Plagne, France. He's also been invited to compete in slopestyle during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival next month, and even though his focus has been in the pipe during recent seasons, that's a contest d'Artois thinks he can do quite well in.
"The park is pretty much the root of my skiing. I grew up in that park and I've skied way more park than I have halfpipe," he said. "I want to go out and have fun, but I actually want to do pretty well at that event. I know I can get into the top 10, top 12 area, so that's the goal."
SHARPE STAYS HOT AT BLUE MOUNTAIN
Whistler's own Cassie Sharpe was victorious during the Snowcrown at Blue Mountain as well, winning the women's pipe event. She also managed to place second in the women's slopestyle contest. Earlier in the month, Sharpe also placed third in a U.S. Revolution Tour pipe stop held in Idaho.
In the past two months, Sharpe has won three of her four halfpipe starts in AFP events, which has vaulted her to 18th place in the women's rankings for the discipline.