Top photo: Soren Schepkowski free skis at Whitewater. Inset: Skier Sam Woodward

Freeride team is taking registrations

Big mountain freeride is looking forward to their fifth ski season at Whitewater Ski Resort.

As the Whitewater Freeride team is open for early registration, kids with big mountain ski dreams may want to sign up now. Snow school director Brent Malysh started the young team five years ago and watched the club grow from 12 to 51 members in four years.

So far skiers are from Nelson, Ymir, South Slocan, and a few kids from Castlegar but anyone can join.

“I recognized that there was really nothing for kids who wanted to get into the sport,” said Malysh. “Five years ago freeride events were really fringe. Kids were going to these events as they were popping up but they didn’t have any coaching.”

Being more of a traditional free stylist with moguls and big air, Malysh had to search for freeride coaches. He found Dano Slater and Peter Velisek, both former professional skiers who had competed in adult big mountain freeride  competitions in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

Malysh said, “They do this because they want to be able to pass on what they have learned. They have a passion for the sport. There are only a few handful of clubs like this in most of North America and five teams in BC. We’re a small  percentage compared to regular ski racing.”

The team has a competitive and development level. Skiers in the competitive group are 10 to 18 years old and attend various events in BC and Alta.  Once the ski hill opens, they train one day per week on the snow. On a competition week they could be on the snow up to three days during a competition week. The development team is for skiers as young as eight to 18 looking to get into the sport. “We  keep them in Whitewater to help them build a solid foundation for big mountain free ride.”

The team is for skiers only and there is a 10 per cent discount if registered by September 30.

For extra keen team members, dry land training starts in November at the Hume school. Where can all this big mountain skiing take some one?

For one local rising star Trace Cook, it has taken him around the world. He was on the team for  the first  three years of the program and has since moved on to competing at pro/amateur events. Cook was named the North America champion for 15-18 year olds in 2013.

“He is a sponsored athlete now and, thus, our first alumnist,” said Malysh.  “When Trace  was on the team, he was on the podium more often than not.”

Malysh said Cook was an exceptional skier when he first joined their club but the coaching helped him in competition.

“He is very athletically inclined. He can pick up any sport and excel at it,“ said Malysh. “The coaching helped him gain maturity and learn what works and what doesn’t during competition.”

As the sole member of the Whitewater pro team, Cook sits in as a guest coach when he’s home. Last winter he travelled to competitions in Switzerland, France, Montana and Colorado as a Whitewater athlete.

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