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A little spring rain and slush was no match for the high-spirits of competitors, concert-goers, 1550+ deep crowd that rolled into the Whistler Conference Centre, and one giant crew of amigos, all of whom went all out and made the second-to-last day of World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF) count. True to the rest of the fest, Saturday was jam-packed with good times and great vibes from dawn to dusk, and beyond (if in fact they even stopped the night before.)
The day brought out 15 of the world’s top freestyle skiers, a roster of 48 brave snowboarders going full-send through a snowy obstacle course, a high-energy midday dance party, and six crews of skillful and steezy filmmakers and athletes, each of whom brought their vision of skiing/snowboarding in Whistler to life (in just seven days).
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The skies may have been grey over Whistler, but the vibes were sunny as 15 of the world’s top freestyle skiers gathered to give it their all in the Sp’akwus Ski Invitational.
Taking the wins in the spring contest, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (CAN) and Sarah Hoefflin (SUI).
For ABM, who won bronze in Slopestyle in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, today’s win is his first at this level, and marks the end of a busy competition season.
“I’m so happy, for sure,” said the Quebec City native. “So stoked on my season. So glad to not have any injuries. It’s been full-throttle. I’m happy to end it on a win. The first win on the pro tour in my life. I’ve had a second, a third. So happy to finally get a win.”
Solidifying the win today were two 1090’s, a trick ABM hadn’t done before in competition. The Monster athlete landed every single one of his jumps, going big ‘til the end. His final jump was one of his best, earning him a 92.25 and boosting his overall score to 186.50. He threw it down with conviction, raising his hands in the air and spraying snow through the finish corral as he came to a stop.
Behind ABM, fellow Quebecois Phillips Langevin (CAN) with 176.50. Third place went to Campbell River’s Teal Harle (CAN), who came in hot on Langevin’s heels with 170.
On the women’s side, the winner echoed the relief at Mother Nature’s cooperation today, with the rain falling only lightly, giving way to sun at the end.
“I was really nervous the whole week because they said it was going to rain the whole day and we struggled with the speed in training, but it worked out today,” said Hoefflin. “The speed was great and the guys working on the jump did such a good job.”
The 28-year-old Swiss rider’s final score of 170, the sum total of her two best tricks, included the 92.5 she earned from a switch dub 10. Like ABM, she went full gas all the way to the end, throwing down her second highest scoring trick of the day on her final run. Similarly, last year’s winner Elena Gaskell (CAN) pushed hard on her final jump, pushing her way up into second place with a final score of 149.75. Third place went to local favourite, Whistler’s Yuki Tsubota (CAN) who ended her day with 144.75.
The Sp’akwus Ski Invitational was renamed in 2019. “Sp’akwus” means “Eagle,” weaving in tradition from the Squamish 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.
The day’s action wrapped with undoubtedly the liveliest evening of the festival. CLIF Intersection in association with Protect our Winters Canada was the second sold out show in a row at the Whistler Conference Centre. The evening brought together six crews of filmers and athletes, each tasked to shoot, produce and edit a 5-7 minute ski/snowboard edit in just seven days.
What’s more, all footage was required to come from within 100 k.m. of Whistler, with 75% taking place on snow, with each edit including 30 seconds of both park footage and in-bound Whistler Blackcomb terrain.
As the lights dimmed and the six screens came to life with shots of sunny park days, backcountry missions and great times with better friends, the crowd went wild.
In the end the Los Amigos squad, who was rolling several dozen deep in the crowd, walked away with the $10,000 Best in Show prize, as well as People’s Choice.
The biggest reaction of the night came during their “Friends”-themed film, when one team member sent it off the sheer rock of Chopsticks Face off Peak Chair on Whistler – a line that didn’t end as intended.
“I shattered my clavicle, I fractured my tibia and I broke three toes in my left foot,” said Morgan Tien from his wheelchair in the audience.
Despite his injury, Tien shouted, from the middle of his screaming crew who turned the area around his wheelchair into a deafening mosh pit, that tonight’s win was “one of the most incredible feelings I’ve ever had.”
This concludes our coverage on the World Ski & Snowboard Festival, but be sure to stay tuned for a forthcoming recap on The JP Memorial. Big thanks to WSSF, Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler Premier and Le Chamois for having us, and for more information on the event, visit wssf.com.