Canadian Freeskiing Championship Athletes Win Big

January 13th, 2010 by

Canadian Freeskiing Championship Athletes Win Big
Backstrom and McMillan Take First at Revelstoke

By: Jason Tross

Every stop on the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour brings two champions to the 1st-place podium. In that sense, the tour’s second stop here at Revelstoke Mountain Resort Sunday was like any other stop.

That’s where the similarities end.

First-place winners Arne Backstrom and Jessica McMillan were among 27 finalists who anxiously waited several hours with spectators for clouds to clear over Revelstoke’s notoriously steep and heavily cliffed Mackenzie Bowl.

With literally a few minute’s notice, the Selkirk Tangiers Helicopter engines fired up and the women loaded first for their shot at the 2010 Canadian Freeskiing Championship.

“I found myself on top of Mac face and there wasn’t a lot of time up there,” said McMillan.

“You didn’t get to take the time you wanted to. It was happening fast and it was intense. You couldn’t see over the ridge so you just took this little goat path forward. Then there was the face – it looked really nice,” said added.

Mac Face, as locals call it, is nearly inaccessible without a helicopter, leaving the snow untouched for weeks. Fresh, deep and stable is snow is a rare occurrence as these competitions proceed regardless of snow condition. Venues are often packed down by skiers or weather. Mac Face was both fresh and deep – inviting athletes to push even harder.

McMillan turned to her competition experience and athleticism to move ahead of Jacqui Edgerly and FWT newcomer and North Face Young Gun winner 19-year-old Angel Collinson. The veteran’s planned run included an unexpectedly large 60-foot air toward the end of her run.

“I really thought it was a double – I really did,” said McMillan.

“It wasn’t a double though. It was a 60 footer. But I stood there and thought – is this smart? Should I wreck in a comp? Do I wanna win? Yadda yadda… I took my escape route which was super easy and then dropped something I had no idea how big it was because that was plan B.”

“The snow was so amazing – I should have just sent it,” she added.

The men finished behind Lake Tahoe’s Arne Backstrom after he turned the 50-degree Mac Face into a big-mountain giant slalom race course.

“The highlight of the run was dropping off that first rock in the middle in the run where everything started coming up super fast,” said Backstrom.

“After the first rock, I barely had enough time to check my speed, then into the next air – that was a really fast one. It was pretty much one super-G turn before I had a chance to shut it down a little bit before I went over that next double. Then I was able to shut it down a bunch. That last cliff, I was just thinking about sticking it and keeping it together,” he added.

Keeping his run together earned Backstrom the Sickbird award despite Julian Lopez’ massive air – judges estimate at more than 80 feet and one of the largest and cleanest airs in International Freeskiers Association (IFSA) competition history. Lopez’ performance brought him in right behind Backstrom with Canadian Luke Nelson coming in 3rd.

“Something really special happened here in Revelstoke,” said Subaru FWT Head Judge and International Freeskiers Association President Jim Jack.

“We’re back in Canada, we’ve got a new mountain with a new venue and it’s been a long time coming,” he added

The Canadian Freeskiing Nationals were previously held at Whistler-Blackcomb for years as the only Canadian IFSA competition site.

According to Jack, IFSA venues must present several challenges and features to showcase the competitors’ talent. Those features include rocks, technical terrain, cliffs and pitch while also being a long enough run. Sunday’s venue spanned more than 1,500 feet.

Ultimately, the judges need an unobstructed view – which Jack feels was the biggest challenge at Revelstoke. Clouds kept the competition postponed through Saturday and several hours on Sunday..

“Some venues are logistically difficult – and this one was a challenge with using the helicopter and all,” said Jack who, in 1990, was among the first IFSA competitors and head judge since 2004.

“This is a very spirited and enthusiastic group of individuals. and most of all they’re passionate about their sport. If we had bad weather or we didn’t have a competition out here today those athletes would be out there skiing anyways,” said Jack.

Judges felt the level of athlete competing on the Mac Face venue needed to be a high-level athlete. Two days of qualifying rounds helped thin the field from more than 80 to the final 27.

”These were our best skiers,” said Jack.

The Town of Revelstoke closed off a downtown street for an outdoor replay of the finals and block party for the awards presentation. The same weather that kept the competition at bay didn’t stop locals from attending the party – awards and skiers or not.

“Revelstoke is new and we are very happy with the spectator turnout and support. The people of Revelstoke are looking for something special to happen,” said Jack.

“The Freeskiing World Tour wants to be here,” he added.

“The terrain is huge. I can’t believe it. And there’s hardly anyone skiing here,” It’s not often I go to a place and think, ‘man I could spend a season here at a single resort and be happy,’” said Backstrom.

“I’ve definitely had thoughts like that here for only having been here for three days.

It’s a special place,” he added.

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