Before freestyle mogul skiers are able to perform their tricks on the ski hill, they practice on water ramps.
For two summers, the Apex Freestyle Club (AFC) skiers worked on their skills with coaches on Okanagan Lake, but are now into their first full summer at Covert Farms in Oliver.
Kenni Kuroda, coach of AFC, said Covert Farms provides the perfect location with a backup reservoir. An air system was put in place to pump air into the water, creating a softer landing.
AFC member Mason Barzilay said the training on the weekends has been great with Kuroda and the other coaches. Along with the ramp, there are two trampolines set up. During the weekend sessions, Barzilay focuses on perfecting new tricks. While training, Barzilay soaks in the scenery.
“It’s pretty great. The setting is fabulous. You’re in the middle of an organic farm and winery,” said Barzilay, who is competing independently for a second season.
Barzilay said as long as the air bubbles are going, they can’t get hurt while landing.
James Naude likes the training area.
“It’s a safe way to learn new tricks,” said Naude, an AFC skier who earned a spot on the B.C. Development team. “You can’t hurt yourself as bad.”
“The idea of the water ramp is to take the danger out of learning how to do new tricks,” said Kuroda. “You can do it on an airbag. Still an airbag has got quite an impact, especially if you are doing your first somersaults.”
Kuroda wants to try and have the skiers do inverted maneuvers. They also must complete a minimum of 50 jumps before they can qualify. That is to ensure that they will be able to land the jumps safely on snow. Kurodo likes to see the athletes at the training site for a month or two. Those who train regularly would complete 10 jumps a day.
“They have to learn the proper technique,” he said. “It takes weeks to master.”
Kurodo has been doing this style off-season coaching for five years and the results have helped skiers move up to development teams.
“Without it, we wouldn’t have those kinds of results,” said Kuroda.