The mercury reached up to 11 degrees as the sun shone over pristine, snow-capped peaks. Skiers charged in one of the steepest ski races in the world, while the bikini clad sent it alongside rainbow unicorns over a giant slush pit. As day turned to après, the village vibe got next-next-level, as revellers partied to a live DJ in the plaza, building the action toward the day’s crescendo. As it peaked, 16 of the world’s top freestyle snowboarders battled it out at the base of the mountain, landing unpronounceable, unfathomable tricks in the soft, spring snow. And as après turned to night a sold-out crowd gathered to celebrate ingenuity, creativity and the art of film making.
The spirit of sports, art, music and mountain culture of the World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF) was strong today, with athletes, competitors, spectators and organizers going all-in with a shuffled schedule to take advantage of Mother Nature’s fine mood.
Here’s a look at what went down today across Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, Whistler Village and the Whistler Conference Centre.
Halaw Snowboard Invitational
66: meters, size of jump, between take off and knuckle
16: number of competitors
1500+: crowd watching from Whistler Village
The first of two Big Air competitions was all about sun, slush, ruts, big hype and bigger tricks as some of the best freestyle snowboarders in the world descended on Whistler, each vying for a piece of the nearly $75,000 pie.
In the end, two young Canadian snowboarders each walked away with $20,000. Jasmine Baird (CAN) and Jack MacDougall (CAN) end their 2019 competition seasons on a winning note under champagne and sparkling apple showers. The latter for MacDougall who, at only 18, isn’t old enough for alcoholic bubbly just yet.
MacDougall’s cab 12 triple cork and backside 14 triple cork boosted him to the top step with a combined score of 179.5. Right behind him with a combined score of 174.5, veteran competitor Mark McMorris (CAN), known as one of the most decorated athletes in competitive snowboarding history. Third place went to Quebec’s Francis Jobin (CAN) with 171.75.
For Baird, it was a backside seven and cab underfoot 540 that set her apart, earning her a total of 142. The 19-year-old had some steep competition in Julia Marino (USA), who won the event last year, taking second with 141.75, and Olympic silver-medallist Laurie Blouin (CAN) coming in third with 131.25.
The Halaw Snowboard Invitational was renamed in 2019. “Halaw” means “Eagle,” weaving in tradition from the Lil’Wat First Nation.
The WSSF’s Big Air competitions are proudly supported by the Resort Municipality of Whistler, in partnership with funding from the Province of British Columbia.
Saudan Couloir Race Extreme
639: meters vertical drop
3300: meters course length
The fast and the fearless kicked competition off today, lining up at the top of one of the steepest pitches in the race world. Described as “spooky” by the Pro Men’s winner, with its steep ledges and tight turns, the race course for the Saudan Couloir Race Extreme is the stuff of Whistler legend, and today two new champions earned their place in the history books.
For both Jordy Norris (CAN) and Brynne Benbow (CAN), today was a day for redemption. Both finished second last year, and both stepped up to the top step on the podium today.
“I definitely was expecting my legs to gas out a bit sooner than they did. I actually had them for most of the race this time,” said Benbow, whose 2:26.43 bested Marie-Pier Préfontaine’s (CAN) 2:28.41. Préfontaine won last year, so this year the two swap podium spots. “I can’t complain with this sun and beautiful snow this time...it was perfect corduroy and nice groomed snow.”
After getting past the spooky start (“The top was crazy, wild, bumpy, hold-on-for-your-life...”) Norris echoed Benbow’s comments about the stellar conditions (“...and then it turned into a really nice ski course actually. It was just kind of fun skiing at the bottom.”)
He charged across the finish line 2:08.70, just ahead of Olympian Robbie Dixon (CAN) who finished in 2:08.03.
Twisted Tea Slush Cup
113: number of competitors
90: feet, length of slush pit
0: number of f*cks given
Not all superheros wear capes (though most at Slush Cup do) and not all competitions are about the hardware. Some, like the annual Twisted Tea Slush Cup, are more an occasion to pull out your favourite dinosaur or flying squirrel costume, or fulfill your dreams of skiing in your underwear, while trying to achieve a half-baked goal. 113 competitors did just that this afternoon, taking turns sending it across a giant slush pit at the top of Whistler Mountain in front of hundreds of friends, fans, and confused ski school groups.
Results: N/A (what happens at Slush Cup stays at Slush Cup...and on WSSF’s Flickr)
Swatch 72hr Filmmaker Showdown
18: number of submissions
10: number of finalists
72: hours given to contestants to shoot, edit and produce a short film
7,000: dollars in prize money on the line
A sold out crowd wrapped the day at the Whistler Conference Centre for the Swatch 72hr Filmmaker Showdown. 10 finalists presented their films, all of which were shot, edited and produced in 72 hours.
The “People’s Choice” award went to “Benched,” a dark comedy about the danger of being an “Erin/Aaron” in Whistler produced by Two Dontas, One Proctor Productions.
Taking home the big prize was “Kevin,” a mixed media fantasy piece about an escape to the wild by Kyle James.
Later today, it’s the skiers time to shine, as the Sp’awkus Ski Invitational goes live from Whistler to the world on WSSF.com at 4:30 p.m., while the SOLD OUT CLIF Intersection in association with Protect Our Winters Canada will be the place to be come sundown.
For more information on the World Ski & Snowboard Festival, visit wssf.com.