Four athletes made it through Sports Illustrated For Kids Next Snow Super Qualifier on Blackcomb Sunday and will represent Whistler at the finals in Keystone, Colorado next month.
Some 69 kids aged 9 to 13 took part in the event, moving from a timed giant slalom race to a big mountain event to a slopestyle. Some of the participants also participated in a halfpipe jam while the judges picked 14 contestants to take part in a final big air contest that evening.
It was only supposed to be 10 athletes in the big air, but according to judge and coach John Smart, it was too close too call in some cases.
"Basically we gave every skier a mark out of 10 for what they did out there, then factored in other things, like the athletes attitude and their age, if it was a boy or a girl," he said. "We wanted athletes that represented their sport in a positive way, but also had talent."
Once the results from all three qualifying events were put together, the judges decided it was better to go with 14 athletes in the big air final.
Following the big air, Smart said the judges were in full agreement over which athletes should make the trip to Keystone, although a few of the competitors were really close.
The easiest call to make was 13-year-old Garrett Milan, a skier who landed a 720 off the big air before stomping a ski slide with a switch landing off the bottom rail.
Milan was one of the few athletes that wasnt representing either the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club, Whistler Valley Snowboard Club or the Whistler Kids Freeride Club.
"I thought Id do okay," said Milan. "My best event is probably the slopestyle, and I had a really good run in that so I made it to the finals. I felt good in the big air, there are jumps bigger than this in the park so I just did what I could."
Milan said he has been skiing since he was three, and has been skiing the park for three and a half seasons. He hasnt entered many competitions except for a few local events like the Sprite Series and King of the Rails, but plans to enter more in the future.
"Im just having fun with it, theres a bunch of us who ski together and learn things, but I like entering local contests because there isnt too much pressure and all your friends are competing too," he said.
"Everybody was really great and if you did something well then everybody was cheering for you. The finals were also fun, with the big crowd at the bottom. Ive never done anything with a crowd that big before."
The finals took place during the Fire and Ice show, with more than a thousand people gathered at the base of Whistler in 14 degree weather to watch the Next Snow athletes and a jumping demonstration by members of the Whistler-Blackcomb Ski and Snowboard School.
The other three athletes chosen to go to Keystone were Brian Bowles, 13, from the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club, who landed a huge nose grab and board slide, and Logan Pehota and Simon Louwe, who landed 540s.
All four athletes will be able to attend the Sports Illustrated For Kids Next Snow Search in Keystone, Colorado Feb. 11-13, and received packages including free accommodation, lift tickets, event tickets and $500 towards airfare.
The finals will feature approximately 150 kids, who will compete over three days to win a spot on the Sports Illustrated For Kids Next Snow Search Team.