Learning to ski at age three and hitting the slopes competitively at Apex eight years later, Phipps will be one of nearly 90 moguls competitors hoping to move a ski step forward to their ultimate goal of becoming a member of the national freestyle team.
|Getting big air against a foggy backdrop, competitors in this weekend’s Canada Cup event had training Thursday.
Mark Brett/Western News
“Unbelievable,” said Phipps, who has competed with the BC Freestyle Ski team for the past three years, about what it would mean to him to make the national team. “That’s been the dream forever for as long as I can remember that’s the main goal this year and if I can make it come true that’s the dream.”
Going into the selections event under less than ideal conditions he and others have to work that much harder.
“I’m putting down something that I know is going to score pretty well on a comp (competition) day especially when the course is a little tough, you just have to try and manage your mistakes as best as possible and try and keep everything as tight as possible,” said Phipps.
Unofficial training began Thursday morning with the Kristi’s Run moguls course blanketed in fog just before things got underway.
The athletes will be judged on speed, air and their turns. There are two jumps on the course and athletes will be doing aerial maneuvers such as 720s, D Spins (off-axis, inverted rotations), and a back full, which is a backflip with 360-degree rotation and landing back in the moguls.
|Tanya Callon, Apex Freestyle Club coach talks with one of her skiers during Thursday’s training at Apex Mountain Resort.
Mark Brett/ Western News
In total, there will be seven local skiers, including four members of the Apex Freestyle Ski team that will be competing over the two days for the valuable International Ski Federation (FIS) points.
“The Canadian Selections is the first Canada Cup event. It kind of kicks off the season and provide opportunities for athletes who have good standings in last year’s Canada Cup to compete for spots on the NorAm circuit, a highly competitive and challenging field of events comprised of next-gen Olympic athletes,” said event manager Evan Phillips.
Apex Freestyle will host the final leg of the NorAm circuit on March 2 and 3 this season in a championship stop.
Other local skiers on the B.C. team, under the guidance of sophomore provincial coach Josh Kober of Penticton, are Kassidy Todd, 20, of Keremeos and Penticton’s Brayden Kuroda.
“Those are my older, more experienced athletes, so they’re at that point in their career where they’re ready to take the podium here; if not the top five, top 10 at least. They’re very competitive with the rest of the field here this event,” said Kober. “They all had great years, Kassidy and Koleton were both a couple of the top provincial level athletes in the country and Brayden was as well.”
Penticton’s other competitors at the event are members of the Apex Freestyle Club where Kober got his start before moving on to international competition during his competitive career.
Ainsley MacDonald, 15, Alec Henderson, 15, Ethan Phillips, 16 and Joe Durham, 20 are the Apex skiers.
|A skier loses his balance on a training run Thursday at the Canada Cup selection competition at Apex Mountain Resort.
Mark Brett/Western News
“For our club athletes it’s a chance to gain competition-level experience and to gain scores and points again for that next level up which for our club athletes would be the provincial team,” said Tanya Callon, who is taking over the coaching duties at Apex this season and is a former provincial and national team member herself.
“It’s actually quite nostalgic coming back and coaching for the club again. I’m really excited to build the club up and I’ve created new programming for the club, streamlining the programming that they had and filling in the gaps, where there were gaps. The mountain (Apex administration) does a lot for us.”
According to Apex general manager James Shalman that is the mountain’s commitment to its young skiers, adding the resort is now on the world freestyle map for its facilities.
“With our snowmaking facilities and our high altitude that we have we have one of the first mogul courses in the world that’s available for athletes to come train on,” said Shalman.
Last year the Olympic training was held at Apex and so far this year the national team, four teams each from Australia and Japan, American skiers and others have made the mountain their training course.
The competition this weekend runs all day Saturday and Sunday with official training wrapping up Friday.
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