Training Ground

Mount Sima is “the first mountain in North America to have a jump line in.”

That’s what Graham Pollock says. He’s the head coach of the Yukon freestyle ski team.

A jump line means a skier can take more than one jump in a row while going down a hill. Sima has three jumps in a row. The jumps are “necessary for training, or for the tricks we do,” says Pollock.

Soon, ski hills across North America will have jump lines in, and freestyle skiing season will be in session.

Freestyle skiing means skiers perform tricks on jumps and rails. This is what the Yukon team focuses on. Rails are just as important as jumps, says Pollock. Skiers will do three tricks, or features, on a rail, and transition to hitting a big jump and doing a trick off that.

The Yukon team focuses on rails and jumps, but freestyle skiing also includes mogul runs. Moguls are big mounds on steep slopes, mogul skiers manoeuvre the mounds. Half pipe is another freestyle component. “Half pipes” are literally half of a pipe. Skiers whip up the side of it and spin into the air, land, and whip up the other side of the pipe, into the air.   

Skiing in the park at a hill is freestyle skiing. Some hills have better-developed parks than others. Apart from being cold enough to build a park early season, staff at Mount Sima focus energy and money on building up Sima’s park. Many ski hills don’t do this because they are resorts, and want to attract tourists. Tourists like outdoor skating ponds and tube rides. Sima doesn’t attract tourists, but it can build up its freestyle infrastructure to attract skiers from across Canada for the early season training.

This was written the week of November 16. The parking lot at Sima was fairly filled up with rental cars and vans. Graham Pollock and I had to talk in the staff trailor outside, because the lunch room was packed with skiers. And this is pre-season.

The athletes come to Sima and pay good money for the early season training.

Last year, the National Next Generation Team came and trained early season at Sima. This is a team of athletes who get national funding. They are the level before the Canadian olympic team.

This is the first time a team’s trained at Sima. The athletes “loved it,” says Pollock, and pushed to, “get this comp.”

By that he means the first Canada Open Tour of the season. It’s a national freestyle tour for skiers on the national freestyle team. It’s a four-stop tour. Whitehorse is first, then Silver Star, in B.C., Mount St. Louis Moonstone, in Ontario, and Stoneham, in Quebec. Over 80 athletes will participate in it.

“This is the first time Sima has hosted a comp at this level, aside from Canada Games,” Pollock says.

He explains how comps get athletes practicing the tricks they’ve been training for all year. Usually, the first comp isn’t until mid-January, and then athletes are in “competition season,” as he calls it.

Then, there is a comp every two weeks, or “even tighter sometimes.”

That’s why teams are eager to come to Sima for a pre-season comp, it gives a skier a chance to set a base for itself, show them where they are, what they need to work on, before the competition season is in full swing.   

The Yukon team’s highest level-athletes are between 15 and 20. There will be seven who will travel around North America for competitions this winter.

Pollock is the team’s first ever head coach. He’s responsible for every athlete on the team, which he estimates is 40. They start at the “jumps and bumps” level and go up from there. Having a head coach means the team can practice all year. “Summer training is where you make or break,” says the coach.

He’ll travel with the seven skiers to competitions, they are going to four out-of-territory this winter.

The Canada Open Tour is in Whitehorse on November 24 – 27. Go to the Yukon Freestyle Ski Association Facebook page to watch videos of the team freestyle skiing, and for information on the upcoming competition.

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