Two skiers from the Shames Mountain Ski and Snowboard Club will carve down the steep open slopes of Red Mountain in a national championship this week in Rossland.
Terrace’s Tom Yasinchuk, 13, and Kitimat’s Jared Thornton,16, are contending with junior athletes from across the country in the Canadian Junior Freeskiing Championships Thursday, Jan. 21, to Saturday, Jan. 23 – an event put on by the International Freeskiing Snowboard Association (IFSA).
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be really fun,” said Yasinchuk, adding that he hopes to adopt techniques he sees used by the other skiers.
“Maybe if there are better people there, I can look at them and maybe learn from them,” he said.
Having never skied slopes larger than Smithers’ Hudson Bay, Yasinchuk said that is what he is looking forward to most: “Just to ski the mountain feel it and see what the mountain is like,” he said.
“It’s pretty steep and it’s a lot of powder, a lot of jumps… I’m really excited to hit those.”
Tricks can be part of freestyle skiing, but Shames Mountain coach Chance Healey said the key is control.
“It’s learning how to read terrain… There is no runs, there is no markers, it’s just the side of the mountain, and they have to negotiate the safest way, or the way they want to go down, with the best control. That’s the point: the person who skis it with the most control, the most speed, the most aggression, usually wins the event,” Healey said.
“You can do tricks if you want – some people do, some people don’t – but when you are skiing down a hill with 40 to 50 degree slope angles and the kids are skiing anywhere from 40 to 80 kilometres per hour down that, with the rocks and trees, most of the time they are just trying to stay balanced and square … Tricks are not a mandatory thing, but they do help your overall impression on the judges if you land them,” he added.
Healey said that big mountain, freestyle skiing is the focus of the Shames Mountain club, as it uses and builds competitions around existing terrain, rather than requiring special grooming like alpine racing. Events at Shames are usually freestyle, such as the Hit & Run competition last weekend, which was a good mock run for Yasinchuk and Thornton to practice on before nationals.
At age 13, Yasinchuk has competed on Shames and on Smithers Hudson’s Bay Mountain, and first hit the slopes at age three with his dad.
“My dad mostly taught me,” Yasinchuk said, citing the french fries and pizza as some of the basic skiing forms his dad showed him.
Since he joined the club three years ago, he has been learning form from coach Healey and from fellow skier Thornton, who is age 16 and now a friend and mentor to Yasinchuk.
“He teaches me a lot of things… a lot of basic things to learn to build up for bigger tricks,” said Yasinchuk of Thornton.
Yasinchuk also learns from watching Thornton.“Most of the time I just watch him do it first, and then go,” he said.
Coach Healey said the two skiers train on Shames Mountain every weekend, and managed to seize an opening in the fall to compete in the nationals without earning the spot in the Kicking Horse Mountain qualifier last year.
Thornton did compete there, and earned a rank in the top 12.
He has been skiing with the club six years and competed many times.
“He has been very focused since a young age to pretty much live and breathe skiing,” said Healey of Thornton. “He goes down to Whistler summer camps every year to do as much training as he can.”
Healey said Thornton is a good mentor to Yasinchuk as he pursues the sport.
“Tom (Yasinchuk) is literally almost Jared’s shadow, which is nice because Tom has the example in Jared as to where his athlete path-line is heading,” Healey said.
Connie Yasinchuk, Tom’s mom, said Tom looks up to Jared a tremendous amount and both of them give their all into what they do.
“They definitely have a lot of commonalities: They are both very aggressive when it comes to fitness and skiing… I can definitely see why they really enjoy each others company because they are so intense.”
The two skiers hit the road with coach Healey and Sheldon Yasinchuk, Tom’s dad, on Tuesday, driving to Rossland for the competition.