2009 Canadian Open Freeskiing Champs at Red Resort
Wide awake in Rossland
If Rossland, BC was ever coined a sleepy little mountain town, this past weekend was the exception. Jan 15-18 marked the 2009 Canadian Open Freeskiing Championship, and the competition wasn’t the only circus to roll through the neighbourhood. The foggy little town played host to the Western Regional Pond Hockey Championships and needless to say the streets and hills were crawling with winter sports enthusiasts morning and night.
The conditions on the hill for the competition were a little scarce to say the least, but the 89 competitors who made it out were treated to blue bird skies and beautiful 360 views of the cloud-covered Kootenay valleys. On the day of the qualifiers, the fog nipped at the heels of the judges throughout, as they watched the competitors send it large on Link’s Line. Janina Kuzma, out of New Zealand and Fernie, was the first to drop in that day. She quickly established her lead in the Women’s and didn’t let it slip the rest of the way. The competition was heavy in the Men’s: Aaron Schmidt, whose line was so aggressive and airy he finished the venue in half the time of any other skier, took an early lead in the Men’s, leaving reigning champ Dane Tudor behind in seventh despite numerous 360s.
Day 1 took to the stunning, and incredibly long and challenging, Mt. Roberts. The judges chose to limit the course to the first two thirds of the venue in order to save some of the diminishing sugar for the Finals. Local hero Leah Evans had another solid day and was close on the tail of Janina Kuzma, but wasn’t able to pull past the seemingly faultless Kiwi on this day. Sonja Lercher out of Germany and Nelson maintained her third place ranking in the Women’s with another solid run. In the Men’s, Rossland’s Dane Tudor was reminiscent of his victory the year previous with his twirly antics. He was aggressive early, spinning another 3 out of the gate and stomping it with ease into a very hairy landing. The pressure was on Aaron Schmidt to outdo Tudor, and he didn’t disappoint. Once again, he went big and fast from the start, charging each feature hard, and within mere seconds was soaring through the air to his final landing to the delight of all standers by. But it wasn’t the air-born Aaron Schmidt’s day as right after he stomped, he hit a rut and one of his skis popped off. He never looked back, finishing the venue on one ski—the inevitable result was a disqualification.
They opened up the whole venue on Roberts for Day 2, and the spectators were in for a treat. Crystal Wright out of Jackson, Wyoming and Kasie Stroshin hailing from Whistler had solid runs down the long and grueling terrain and put the pressure on the top three of the Women’s. Sonia Lercher took a tumble early on into a tree, but got right back up with bruised ribs and guts of steel to finish an incredible run. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Leah Evans was looking for victory when she took to the icy turns on Roberts. She went big from start to finish stomping several huge airs on the way and showing everyone who owned the hill. She came into the last air without losing a beat, stomped her last landing, but reminiscent of Aaron Scmidt’s previous day, couldn’t quite hold the next turn and her legs gave out to everyone’s audible dismay. It was all left open for Kuzma, who dropped in on a line that had the upcoming male skiers scratching their heads. She sent it, stomped it and proceeded to take first place by a slide.
The Men’s final runs were nonetheless to impress. As the day went on, it was clear that the final survivors of this comp, with its taxing terrain and treacherous trannies, weren’t out for a mess around. They all stepped up and went big; while many fell a time or two, there were some fantastic lines and long distance postage well sent, regardless of the perilous conditions. Sean Cochrane, who sat in second place coming in, stepped up big and bombed a huge gap skier’s left of Lower Lumbar, the final feature on Roberts. He nearly landed it, bouncing off his side and riding it out with his fists in the air. But the near landing may have marked the difference on this last day for the Men’s. 19-year-old Dane Tudor stamped and stomped another early 360 and closed the run out with the cool and calm demeanour of a seasoned vet, sealing first overall for the second season in a row.
If it wasn’t sent enough on Roberts that day—and let me tell you, it was—we certainly took it to the post office that night at Rafters Lounge. The party was pumping post-comp to the jammy vibrations of head judge Jeff Holden’s latest musical endeavour, Holdenspace. He posted it long distance on the didgeridoo and murdered it on the mic. Much fun was had, as Janina Kuzma hoisted her brew-filled trophy and took countless turns around the bar passing out frothy sips to all. And when all was said and done, it was safe to say that Rossland was a no sleeper on this weekend.
Many thanks to the Ledcor Group who were incredibly generous in their sponsorship; all the staff at Red Mountain Resort; Captain Jack Carey and his team of organizers and volunteers; and, of course, Jeff Holden and his crew of judges who certainly had their work cut out for them on and off the course.
Final results for the 2009 Canadian Open at Red Mountain Resort
1st – Janina Kuzma – Fernie, BC and NZ – 102.0
2nd – Crystal Wright – Jackson, WY – 93.2
3rd – Kasie Stroshin – Whistler, BC – 85.8
4th – Leah Evans – Rossland, BC – 84.2
5th – Sonja Lercher – Nelson, BC and Germany – 83.6
1st – Dane Tudor – Rossland, BC, Australia and USA – 104.2
2nd – Sean Cochrane – Revelstoke, BC – 100.0
3rd – Dylan Crossman – Randolph, VT – 97.1
4th – Luke Nelson – Fernie, BC – 92.2
5th – Alex Wall – Nelson, BC – 91.4