Speed skiing, slopestyle, ski cross and other ski and snowboard events have become household words, but have you heard of freeskiing?
The “new age” downhill event has competitors hit natural features such as pillows, drops and trees as well as terrain park rails, boxes and jumps. Each skier has the freedom to choose their own line while judges mark them on line choice, control, fluidity, technique and style/energy.
The International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association (IFSA), established in 1996 by freeskiing pioneer, Shane McConkey, regulates the judging by requiring potential judges to complete training through an online seminar.
The itch to ski the big lines is getting even the youngest rippers involved. Local freeskiers Jackson Phillips, 13, and his brother Sandy, 10, competed with over 130 competitors in the IFSA sanction event at Red Mountain in Rossland, B.C. on January 17 and 18, finishing 4th and 2nd respectively. Jackson also competed in Whistler’s GoPro Freeski Challenge on February 8 and 10 coming 5th out of 34 riders in the 12 to 14 age category. Despite their young ages, this is their fourth year competing in freeskiing events.
Sixteen-year-old Claire Madill, a former ski racer and now coach with the Sun Peaks Alpine Club, entered her first freeskiing event at Whitewater Resort in Nelson, B.C. at the beginning of February and won her age category (15 to 18 years).
“Leaving ski racing was a big move for me, so being able to still stay in the competition world was neat,” says Claire. “At first (after I won) I was so shocked, then I was overwhelmed with joy. It felt incredible to be recognized in a sport that I base my life goals on.”
Freeskiing is a more relaxed competition where everyone is encouraged to push the limits of their own abilities by choosing a line that highlights their personal strengths.
“The freeski vibe is extremely positive. Everyone is there to have fun, and ski some sweet runs. There’s no stress/negativity towards the competition run as the competitor chooses their own line,” says Claire.
Province-wide, athletes from all disciplines are taking to freeskiing — but, the sport isn’t limited previous competitors. Anyone who wants to strap in and hit the slopes can showcase their unique abilities.