Paranormal Shredding at the Whitewater Juniors
Skiing is as much of a sport as it is a spiritual practice. This event reminded us all of that.
Freeski parents. You didn’t put your kids in hockey. If you kept them off the ice you could spend time sharing a sport together. It would avoid the expensive entry fees and the competition. There would be no watching and yelling on the sidelines, only time spent together. Then you entered your kids into a freeskiing contest and that all went to hell.
It was a pile of broke parents, frozen and scared, yelling at their children to stomp their landings this weekend at 2014 Smith Optics Junior Freeski Open at Whitewater Resort. One hundred kids came out to test their skills on rock-hard venues from the January drought. But bad snow wouldn’t slow down any of the weekend’s competitors. They all charged hard and there were only a handful of crashes on day one. All competitors crossed the finish line uninjured. Though those watching were supportive, the -15˚ weather left a sparse crowd.
With so many skiers staying on their feet and advancing to the Blast finals, the scores were incredibly tight. As always, there were very great showings coming from Red Mountain and Whitewater, but the tight scores pushed the athletes harder to stand out. Scores were incredibly tight, as almost all skiers stayed on their feet and advanced to the finals.
The 7-11 category is the new 12-14. The progression of junior freeskiing has become most evident in this category. These younsters no longer look like cute runaway pizza wedges rolling over cliffs and jumps. They’re now sporting aggressive race-style techniques, popping off airs into tight Schmidt poses then stomping clean. Simon Hillis again hands-down won the boys side and it will be exciting to see him next year in the older category giving the 14 year olds a run for their money. The same goes for returning Erin Flood. Both these Rossland locals had the highest score on each of their two contest runs. They also both won the contest last year.
Top female finishers: Jane Beswick, Erin Flood, and Cayane Caney
Moss Caney, Simon Hillis, and Sam Rampado enjoy their moment in the spotlight.
The 12-14 category is the new 15-18. These kids have always skied hard, but have now developed a greater freestyle and technical line skills. They picked up points doubling up airs and throwing floater 360s over bumpy hardpack gaps. Yes the girls were spinning too. Nelson’s Savannah Leishman pulled together a powerful top-to-bottom run to move ahead four positions and into first place. Another Nelson local and crowd favorite, Jesse Thurston, moved up from fifth to first after sending every feature on the venue. As Jesse stood on top of the podium, in the middle of the rest of the top five, a squeaky young voice from the crowd yelled out, “Hey! Whitewater, Whitewater!” The local crowd roared, realizing their hill had produced all of the top five finishers. As far as the girl’s podium, something amazing also happened, but I’ll tell you about that later.
Andi Beland, Savanah Leishman, and Jemma Capel getting the recognition they deserve.
Get your Ws up! Loki Wickman-Rathe, Sam Howard, Jesse Thurston, Jona Caney, and Carlos Berger. Full WH2O podium!
The 15-18 category is the new IFSA World Tour. Full tilt, big air, and carnage. Claire “Mad-Ill” Madill from Kamloops was the undisputed winner in her group as she stuck landing on snow so hard and coarse you could grate cheese with it. Jaiden Martinson-Hatt, whose hard-charging but on-edge skiing put him in first place after the qualifier, made a very mature decision to ski a little tamer than before. He skied technically sound and very clean run to ensure himself a top five. Jacob Flood was a contender for the top spot with a flawless top section, but came up short on a gap aptly named “Knuckle Sandwich,” sending him kickfliping down the mountain. Patrol came on scene. Jacob waved them off, stood up, fell down, stood again, and limped up the hill to grab where he lost his gear, determined to finish his run. He slid across the finish to be greeted by his two sisters and a mob of his Kootenay brothers . Dale C(r)ushway skied an incredibly unique an aggressive line, gapping the Dragon rock feature over into a land called Gnarnia. He also got down the hill faster than anyone else, which allowed him to take his time climbing on top of the podium.
Female 15-18 top five finishers: Alex Beswick, Mackenzie Flood, Claire Madill, Hailey Cooke, and Tara Yowek.
Jaiden Martison-Hatt, Kaiden Lady Killer Foy, Dale C(r)ushway, Keegan Capel, and Sam Woodward. These boys are now men.
Though Sun Peaks and Red Mountain produced some category-winning skiers, Whitewater slayed this contest. It’s strange – Red Mountain has more terrain and a more sophisticated ski academy, and the Rockies have incredible technical ski coaches like Steve Hjorleifson. Whitewater’s freeride program consists of a bunch of banged-up ski bums who should be pushing themselves around in electric wheelchairs. But what those ski bums give the kids is something you can’t see with the naked eye. It is energy. The spirit of skiing – the expression, the stoke, the unity. Technique and form aren’t the foundations of skiing, love is. The love of the sport has been given to these kids from their coaches, their community, and perhaps someone else.
Kirk Jensen, Whitewater Operations Manager and RAP Films superstar, presented an incredibly special award honoring the spirit of skiing, The Travis Steeger Soul Skier Award. For those of you who don’t know the name, Travis Steeger was the Kootenays best and most infectious skier. He passed away a number of years ago leaving behind his endless stoke for skiing and his own Armada promodel, The TST. Even at the mention of his name the crowd exploded.
Andrea “The Afterbuner” Bryne was the only girl to hit the Knucklebiter gap and it punished her. She got up, dusted herself up, and sent a huge 360 off the lower ice wedge. Though the spirit of skiing was shared throughout the contest, Bryne was chosen as the undisputed Travis Steeger Soul Skier, winning a pair of TSTs.
Travis Steeger Soul Skier Award winner, Andrea Bryne.
As I looked at the photos I took at the awards ceremony, something was different after Steeger was mentioned. In the photo above photo of Bryne, small circles appear on her jacket and above her head. In the photo of the girls 12-14 podium, there are detailed circles throughout the photo. It reminded me of the time I was picked up hitch-hiking to Whistler by a guy who traveled to spiritual gathering with a clairvoyant. The clairvoyant would tell him where to take pictures and, once developed, his photos would have “orbs” all over them. Being skeptical I contacted a “Paranormal expert,” on this occurrence. He confirmed these orbs are congruent with those he’s seen when visiting areas across North America which are believed to be inhabited by spirits or ghosts. Below is one of his photos from the Jerome Grand Hotel in Arizona. It’s an old hospital converted into a hotel, where repeated ghost sightings have been reported. These “orbs” regularly coincide with an increased EMF (Electromagnetic Field) reading.
Though I’ve seen Ghostbusters seven times, I’m no expert on happenings beyond what we can normally see. However, being at a contest where the stoke was so high, the skiing was out of this world, and the awards were supernatural, I couldn’t help but think that there was more than just Lisa Voigt attending to the competitors. The spirit of Steeger, that infectious irreplaceable presence, joined us on the weekend as he probably does every weekend. He’s happy here, shredding Kootenay lines with his buddies and bringing their skiing to a higher level.
Credit has to go out to all of the Whitewater Freeride Team coaches: Dano Slater, Peter Velisek, Chandrima Lavoie, Jon Whelan, Pete Then, Moss Patterson, and Travis Steeger.
Steeger warms up the top podium spots for Nelson locals, Jesse Thurston and Sam Howard.
Here are your final results