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 tourâ€™s second stop here at Revelstoke Mountain Resort Sunday was like any other stop.
Thatâ€™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 Revelstokeâ€™s notoriously steep and heavily cliffed Mackenzie Bowl.
With literally a few minuteâ€™s notice, the Selkirk Tangiers Helicopter engines fired up and the women loaded first for their shot at the 2010 Canadian Freeskiing Championship.
â€œI found myself on top of Mac face and there wasnâ€™t a lot of time up there,â€ said McMillan.
â€œYou didnâ€™t get to take the time you wanted to. It was happening fast and it was intense. You couldnâ€™t see over the ridge so you just took this little goat path forward. Then there was the face – it looked really nice,â€ 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 veteranâ€™s planned run included an unexpectedly large 60-foot air toward the end of her run.
â€œI really thought it was a double – I really did,â€ said McMillan.
â€œIt wasnâ€™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.â€
â€œThe snow was so amazing – I should have just sent it,â€ she added.
The men finished behind Lake Tahoeâ€™s Arne Backstrom after he turned the 50-degree Mac Face into a big-mountain giant slalom race course.
â€œThe highlight of the run was dropping off that first rock in the middle in the run where everything started coming up super fast,â€ said Backstrom.
â€œAfter 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,â€ he added.
Keeping his run together earned Backstrom the Sickbird award despite Julian Lopezâ€™ massive air – judges estimate at more than 80 feet and one of the largest and cleanest airs in International Freeskiers Association (IFSA) competition history. Lopezâ€™ performance brought him in right behind Backstrom with Canadian Luke Nelson coming in 3rd.
â€œSomething really special happened here in Revelstoke,â€ said Subaru FWT Head Judge and International Freeskiers Association President Jim Jack.
â€œWeâ€™re back in Canada, weâ€™ve got a new mountain with a new venue and itâ€™s been a long time coming,â€ 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 competitorsâ€™ talent. Those features include rocks, technical terrain, cliffs and pitch while also being a long enough run. Sundayâ€™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..
â€œSome venues are logistically difficult – and this one was a challenge with using the helicopter and all,â€ said Jack who, in 1990, was among the first IFSA competitors and head judge since 2004.
â€œThis is a very spirited and enthusiastic group of individuals. and most of all theyâ€™re passionate about their sport. If we had bad weather or we didnâ€™t have a competition out here today those athletes would be out there skiing anyways,â€ 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.
â€These were our best skiers,â€ 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 didnâ€™t stop locals from attending the party – awards and skiers or not.
â€œRevelstoke is new and we are very happy with the spectator turnout and support. The people of Revelstoke are looking for something special to happen,â€ said Jack.
â€œThe Freeskiing World Tour wants to be here,â€ he added.
â€œThe terrain is huge. I canâ€™t believe it. And thereâ€™s hardly anyone skiing here,â€ Itâ€™s not often I go to a place and think, â€˜man I could spend a season here at a single resort and be happy,â€™â€ said Backstrom.
â€œIâ€™ve definitely had thoughts like that here for only having been here for three days.
Itâ€™s a special place,â€ he added.