Sun Peaks Freestyle Club (SPFC) head coach Daniel Hoerz is embracing a new season, growing pains and all.
“Starting with these kids three years ago, there was no real fundamental program or curriculum to follow at Sun Peaks,” said Hoerz, a Thunder Bay, Ont., product who lives in Kamloops and attends Thompson Rivers University.
“We’ve been creating an outline. Now we’ve got some guys that are doing back flips and front flips and can get off axis. For them, the Timber Tour is such a great introduction.”
The club has 17 members, all boys, each of whom will vie for points at Freestyle BC competitions, including the Timber Tour series and at the Sunny Side Up Slopestyle event that lands in Sun Peaks on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29.
Most of the SPFC’s members are Under-12 skiers who will compete in the Timber Tour’s Super Youth categories. The majority of them have already been skiing under Hoerz’s tutelage for the past three years, even though this season is the club’s first as an officially recognized Freestyle BC outfit.
Some of the most advanced skiers are doing tricks Hoerz is forbidden to teach them during practice, such as acrobatic skills. The head coach said that these are essential to the growth of the most competitive members.
“For training purposes, the biggest issue we have with Sun Peaks is them not allowing us to do any of those aerial manoeuvres off jumps because of resort legal-liability and risk-management issues,” Hoerz said.
“It’s unfortunate because these kids are going to hit a brick wall soon, with not being allowed to do back flips and do the training necessary to get to the regional and national levels.”
High-flyers such as 12-year-old Luc Dallaire, who is advanced enough to compete against Under-14 skiers on the Timber Tour, must learn to do back flips, corks, rodeos and mistys on their own time.
And that’s exactly what they do.
Dallaire, a Grade 7 student at Summit Elementary who has Team B.C. aspirations, can land a Cork 7, which is an off-axis 720.
“I did it on a trampoline a couple times, so I decided to take it to an airbag,” said Dallaire, who has been skiing and doing gymnastics since he learned to walk.
“Then I just kind of went for it on skis and it got cleaner and cleaner.”
Even if the resort were allowing Hoerz to coach those types of tricks, he said there’s a lack of equipment to teach them properly at Sun Peaks.
“We don’t have a gymnastics gym or the possibility to go to Kamloops to use the TCC (Tournament Capital Centre) to train on a trampoline, then we’d need an air bag up at Sun Peaks, and then we’d need permission to do the aerial manoeuvres, which they’re not allowing,” Hoerz said. “There are a lot of hurdles to get over to give a reason for parents to come back season after season.”
Daniel Dallaire, Luc’s dad, has been in contact with resort officials open to changing the rules, but insurance liability remains the major roadblock.
“I hate to say it, but the unfortunate reality will be, once the kids hit that wall, they’re going to have to go to Whistler or Silver Star or somewhere else to seek the proper training and development, if they want to continue down this path,” Hoerz said.
But those are just the growing pains — and the X-Games and Olympics are a long way off.
The club, which operates underneath the Sun Peaks Snow Sports School umbrella, is still in its infancy yet it’s already providing a platform for skiers to reach the B.C. Winter Games (BCWG) and compete for titles on the Timber Tour.
Dallaire is the only Sun Peaks club member to have competed in freestyle skiing at the BCWG, which will be held in Sun Peaks next year.
He was 11 when he placed fourth in the Under-14 slopestyle and big air at the 2016 Games, narrowly missing the podium in both events.
“I can’t feel myself doing a double or triple cork, but I couldn’t see myself doing a cork when I was younger, so maybe,” Dallaire said when asked if the X-Games are in his future.
“I’m just going to keep working on improving and doing better in competitions.”