Trace Cooke in the middle of a 360 at Wrangle the Chute. “I took off a meter up from where my ski tails are

COLUMN: Making it pro in the freeride world

A Nelson Star reporter reflects on the trials and accomplishments of local freeride athletes.

When I returned to work last week after my weekend, I had a message that a young free skier had dropped by the office to speak with me. I had reported on his progress throughout the winter as he pushed his way through a second season of hucking himself down the cliffs and mountain faces in Europe at world famous ski resorts in France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.

Trace Cooke was back in town and I wanted to know what he had to share.

With two deadline days back to back, for two days I resisted the urge to call because I already had many news stories to cover.

I had interviewed Trace and his sister Haley last fall about their upcoming travels to compete in Europe. Sixteen-year-old Haley had made the cut to complete at the Junior Freeride Tour in Grandvalira, Andorra.

Siblings Trace and Haley Cooke. Photo by T. Hynd

Her 19-year-old brother Trace was embarking on his second year skiing on the Freeride World Qualifiers. His goal, he told me, was to make the Freeride World Tour by being one of the top three skiers in the North American region. This would give him the invite-only entry to compete in the 2016 Freeride World Tour. That is making it into the world of professional skiing. The pros.

While I didn’t find it lofty, I did wonder how likely it would be. Not because he wasn’t a good skier, but because I had spent the previous winter following and reporting on the only Canadian  snowboarder, Jamie Rizzuto, as he battled for second place in the Freeride World Tour. He was 36 and he was there mostly on his own dime. He told me one of his strengths was his experience. Competing against Europeans with far lower rankings but full sponsorship, enough to be boarding in New Zealand through the summer season training for the next season on snow, was the reality North Americans face,  especially under-sponsored Canadians

Jamie would return to Fernie to work construction, saving every penny, and when it came to thanking his biggest sponsor, it was his father. And he wasn’t speaking metaphorically. He finished second in the world last year and seventh this season.

When I called Trace, he told me he had made it to the world tour. This was big news.

He is the only Canadian skier in the men’s division to make the cut and he is still a teenager.

There is more that he shared with me about his struggles and solutions to how he wrangled a spot on the tour, all with merit.

Trace will be working in the bush this summer planting trees for a living and when he comes home, he has a trainer lined up to “work every skiing muscle so I’m 100 per cent ready for the 2016 world tour”.

And then I reflect on the recent stories I have written about the current Whitewater Freeride Team, thanks to their coaches keeping me in the loop. Coaches like Peter Velisek who referred to Trace as the team’s “first alumni”.  Velisek, by the way, is currently coaching adult clinics and exploring the fjords of Norway. His love for skiing was apparent when I interviewed him as a ski movie star for Route 3 Magazine. Coach Dano Slater saying the highlight of last weekends Junior freeski competition was skiing the course with the entire team in a rat pack [after the comp], airing the jumps with back flips, which they couldn’t do in the comp without being disqualified.

These athletes love to ski and it shows.

The places that skiing can take you. Over this ridge, down that valley, across an ocean, to the top of the world and right back into yourself.

Just Posted

Cardiac arrest survivor saved by passerby

People who know CPR can now register with a new phone app to notify them of nearby emergencies

Police seek witnesses to fatal weekend accident

Wayne Kernachan was struck by a vehicle while responding to an accident

The 10-mile diet all in one place

Order local food from the comfort of your couch.

Pedestrian killed on Highway 22 Saturday evening

Police say 51-year-old man died after being hit by car

LETTER: Concern for fossil fuel subsidies

From reader Marylee Banyard

Six students arrested, charged in sex assault probe at Toronto all-boys school

The school’s principal, Greg Reeves, described the video of the alleged sexual assault as ‘horrific’

Laine scores 3 as Jets double Canucks 6-3

Injury-riddled Vancouver side drops sixth in a row

Deportation averted for Putin critic who feared return to Russia

Elena Musikhina, a vocal critic of the Kremlin, has been granted a two-year visitor’s permit in Canada

B.C. to allow Uber-style ride hailing services to operate in late 2019

Fee will be applied to fund options for disabled people

Auditor general takes aim at Liberals’ fighter-jet plan

Suditor general Michael Ferguson is about to release a new report on Canada’s attempts to buy new fighter jets

B.C. couple converts ambulance into a traveling home

The Revelstoke couple plan on touring B.C. ski hills then driving to Mexico

Cyclist defecates, throws own poop at car following B.C. crash

Man defecates in the street before throwing it at a driver locked in her vehicle

Jamie Koe, other curlers kicked out of bonspiel for being too drunk

‘You don’t kick around other players’ bags, it’s disrespectful and we expect better of our players’

Homicide victim found under B.C. bridge identified as Hells Angels member

Chad John Wilson was one of four men arrested in Spain in 2013 on allegations of smuggling cocaine.

Most Read