Nelson freeride skiers Haley and Trace Cooke will be travelling to Europe to ski with the best free skiers in the world in the new year.
Haley, 16, was recently named as one of five skiers on the Canadian National team who will be competing at the Freeride Junior World Championships at Grandvarlira, Andorra in southern Europe on February 7, 2015.
“IFSA Junior tour just joined the FJWT (European) tour,” said Haley’s mom Sharon Cooke. “It’s an inaugural year and these athletes are breaking ground for many more of these events.”
“It’s exciting,” said Haley of making the team. She was ranked second in Canada last year, and International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association’s fifth overall female in 2014. Joining her on the team are Audrea Bryne from Fernie who is ranked first overall female in Canada, and Cooper Bathgate, Liam Peiffer and Jackson Bathgate, ranked first, second and third overall males in Canada, who are all from Whistler.
Haley has been preseason training every morning and now that Whitewater is open, she’ll be skiing every weekend. Once the Freeski Club starts up on December 20, she’ll train with them every Sunday.
As for the February competition she’s looking forward to being amongst worldwide competitors.
“Freeskiing it’s not a competitive sport against each other,” she said. “It’s more like a family. Just being around everyone in the outdoors is amazing, the excited vibe from everyone.”
She’s been skiing since the age of three, with a stint snowboarding. Following her older brother and pro-skier Trace Cooke, 19, to his competitions, she decided to start competing as well.
“I have the same technique as my brother. Not a stiff technique, but so as to absorb the bounces, with hands up, and strong turns, quick small turns.”
What drives her to ski?
“Skiing is such an exciting rush; you don’t even realize that you’re out of breath until you get to the bottom.”
“I love jumping,” said Haley who was quick to add “But only 15 to 30 feet drops.”
Haley said her coaches Peter Velesik and Dano Slater have been helpful since she began competing only two years ago.
“They listen to everyone, are a great inspiration, and are really awesome people.”
But she said the biggest influence in her skiing so far has been her brother, Trace, who she skis with most weekends.
“We’ve been skiing together forever. He’s the one I look to the most.”
Trace will be nearby competing in the Swatch Freeride World Qualifiers (FWQ) for the second year, starting in Austria on January 7. The series will take him to other competitions in Switzerland and Italy. [The 2015 FWQ ranking will take the three best results of each rider during the 2014/2015 season.]
He’ll take a train and join Haley in Andorra to act as a guest coach alongside team coach Derek Foose.
As Whitewater Freeski Club alumni and guest coach, Trace will assist the skiers to chose the best line to get the best score.
“There are way bigger mountains in Europe,” he said.
Skiing mostly in the alpine, there are less trees so he will help point out landmarks for the skiers to watch for as they are looking down the slope.
“Being an athlete, you can add in little things like jumps, anything to add to the line score.”