We out here.
After a slight passport mishap yesterday, a missed flight, a misplaced iPad, an overnight in Vancouver and a bus ride this morning, I made it to good ol’ Whistler, BC. Underway for the past week: the annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival. And kicking off today—just one great part of this extravaganza we call WSSF—the much anticipated AFP World Championships, complete with slopestyle and big air events taking place between April 18-20.
On the docket today: slopestyle qualifiers. By the time my bus pulled into town, and after checking myself in to the Hotel Adara (a personal fav’), I managed to get up on the hill to witness the tail end of the competition. As per usual, the slopestyle course is situated in Blackcomb’s Nintendo Highest Level Terrain Park. And as we’ve also come to expect here at the AFP World Champs, the course layout is awesome.
I soaked in the action for about 45 minutes, and I snapped a few photos of the course along the way—see above. After the contest drew to a close, I raced down to Whistler Village, popped by the Adara, collected my various Boston Bruins paraphernalia, and made for Earls Restaurant where I was joined by Aaron Blunck, Broby Leeds, Dara Howell, Maggie Voisin and Julia Krass. Round 1 of the NHL playoffs are underway, and despite the local Canucks not advancing to the postseason, there’s still plenty of hockey talk happening in these parts. I myself was particularly fired up to see Game 1 between the Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings.
Amid the game, whilst I enjoyed a tall Caesar (or four), I spoke with Mr. Blunck in regards to the course, the conclusion of the 2013/14 season, and Whistler in general.
“The slope course this year is a bit more mellow than it normally is,” Blunck said. “It’s a bit smaller jump size, but overall it’s a great course, it’s been super fun so far.”
The jumps do indeed seem a bit smaller than years past, though, I still fancy this as one of the best flowing slopestyle courses of the year. Up top, through the first three jib features, skiers bank gradually from right to left. As they roll into the jump section down below, the course zigs left to right, completing somewhat of a large, smooth “S.” And also, an important reminder: “smaller,” to Blunck, is a relative term. These jumps are still massive.
Blunck cited the “bonk” feature—part of the third jib station—as a standout highlight. “Lots of kids throwing down on that,” he explained. “It’s definitely pretty scary going into it.”
Blunck was one of 10 skiers who advanced through the qualifier today; those 10 will join 20 pre-qualified athletes in Sunday’s final. For Blunck, though, the pressure is off. Like so many others, the Crested Butte rockstar explains that WSSF and the AFP World Champs are whole heartedly about the fun.
“Whistler is the most fun place to hold a comp,” he said. “Especially for the last comp of the season. Everyone is relaxing, chillin’ out, it’s less stress. Whistler doesn’t just put on a great event… it’s the best night life, there are always concerts going on during the festival… it’s a ton of fun. It’s a great time to just come and hang. No worries about coming and throwing down too hard. Just hang.”
“It’s been a really long winter this year,” Blunck added. “There have been so many events. Mainly pipe contests for me, so it’s nice to get out of the pipe, do some slope events, and just enjoy myself.”
The weather forecast is calling for some precip in the days to come. Blunck noted that the weather was quite marginal yesterday, as well, and nevertheless, skiers were making their way through the slopestyle course just fine. Thus, regardless of what Mother Nature has in store, we’re sure to see a solid contest this weekend.
Tonight: more Caesars. Tomorrow night: the famed big air showdown. Sunday: the slopestyle finals, plus the annual AFP awards banquet, held at Bearfoot Bistro. And beyond that: the photo and film showdowns are happening, there are concerts aplenty, and so much more. Loads of action on the way. Stay tuned for more coverage from the WSSF.
Advancing from Heat 1:
Advancing from Heat 2:
Pre-qualified to finals: