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Fernie Free Skiing
Fernie is just one of those special places, a place that is still waiting to live up to its full potential while fully enjoying the slow rise to stardom. It is also home to some amazing local talent, whether it be Olympic hopeful Emily Brydon or even Alex Lifeson, guitarist of the band Rush. What some people don't realize is that there is a small, but growing, group of talented local skiers and riders whom are taking the World Freeski Tour by storm. Athletes such as Aaron Schmidt, Caleb Brown, Martha Burley, Ross Janzen, Janina Kuzma, Luke Nelson, Levi Marriott, Ben Olgilvie and Jamie Rizzuto belong to a posse of skiers and riders called The Fernie Freeride Team, which represent Fernie in Canada and around the world. The accomplishments of these athletes reads like a results list from the pro skiers and riders that we watch in our favorite ski and snowboard movies.
Recently, we had the opportunity to join Aaron Schmidt and Ben Olgilvie on their trip to Wrangle The Chute, a unique freeride invitational only competition in Golden, BC.
"Wrangle the Chute combines three great elements: steep chute skiing / boarding, terrain park tricks, and riding our bucking bronco" at the end of the run, says Jordan Petrovics, corporate alliances, media relations and events coordinator for Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. To finish off Saturday’s festivities, a Texas Hold'em poker tournament takes place in the day lodge, along with the voting of Frozen Frame photo competition.
Day one of the event (Saturday February 6, 2010) was an exceptional sunny day, with very little wind and quality snow conditions. 30 men and five women dropped cliffs, straight lined chutes (forward and switch) and landed 5's, 7's and 9's off the booter at the bottom of the run that started on Golden's infamous CPR ridge. Fernie skiers Aaron and Ben placed 3rd and 5th, respectively, both skiing the steepest lines and dropping the biggest features of the day to huge cheers from the crowd.
Unfortunately, on day two, a low level fog overtook the mountain and visibility was poor to say the least. Normally, with conditions such as this, the day would have been cancelled. However, Petrovics decided to delay the comp and eventually disperse judges around the different features. Most athletes skied or rode the same line as day one considering the conditions, including Aaron and Ben, and waited at the bottom of the course for the winners to be announced and the oversized belt buckles to be awarded to the top three performances.
The two of us sat holding our breath as Petrovics announced the top ten, getting to the final three without mentioning either Aaron or Ben’s names. We cheered the loudest as they stood on the podium, awarded 2nd and 3rd place respectively, and grinned from ear to ear displaying their trophies above their heads. It was a proud moment for Fernie.
Aaron Schmidt has pre-qualified for all of the events in the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour this winter after his huge third place win at the World Freeski Tour’s finals in Alaska in 2008. He will be competing in Crested Butte, Kirkwood and in the finals in Snowbird, Utah. Janina Kuzma is currently in Europe skiing in the Freeride World Tour where she will be treated like a rockstar, signing autographs and winning oversized cheques. Luke Nelson recently placed first at the Canadian Freeskiing Championships in Revelstoke, which was the only Canadian venue on the Freeskiing World Tour Series. Many of the skiers and riders remained in town to ski and ride in Fernie’s Freeski Competition, which took on February 17 – 21.
by Jenn Johnson and Keanna Webber