Harle makes jump to national team 

Slopestyle skier also earns national honour to cap breakout 2014-15 season

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - big award Teal Harle shows off his men's slopestyle Canda Cup trophy. Harle received the award for being the top athlete in his discipline competing below the national team level.
  • Photo submitted
  • big award Teal Harle shows off his men's slopestyle Canda Cup trophy. Harle received the award for being the top athlete in his discipline competing below the national team level.

As a slopestyle skier, Teal Harle is used to making all sorts of jumps.

This fall, he'll make another one.

The Canadian Freestyle Ski Association (CFSA) confirmed on May 25 the 18-year-old Harle will be among its ranks as a B Team member when athletes convene for the 2015-16 season.

"It lets me know that all my hard work is paying off," he said, noting he heard from CFSA brass earlier this month to let him know of the selection.

Harle, who moved with his family from Vancouver Island to Whistler last year as part of the Podium of Life Snow Sports Academy — set to become its first graduate this spring — is coming off a dominating season in which he finished fourth overall in the Association of Freeskiing Professionals rankings led by an 11th-place ranking in slopestyle and 25th in big air.

Harle won two gold medals at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, placed second at three other events including the prestigious Dumont Cup, and flew to a big air gold at the Sony SnowCrown event at Ontario's Blue Mountain. He also made his World Cup debut in Switzerland placing 52nd at Silvaplana in March.

Canadian slopestyle coach Toben Sutherland cited Harle's "passion and desire" on multiple occasions as his lead reasons for inviting him to officially represent his country this year.

"He's always the first one on the hill and the last one to leave. He couldn't get enough," Sutherland said.

Harle's name first popped up for consideration last May, Sutherland said, but he was an unknown quantity to the coaching staff at the time. After seeing him ski in-person for the first time last August, Sutherland became convinced to work more closely with Harle in order to get him in the pipeline of high-performance athletes with a potential to wear the maple leaf in PyeongChang, South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

"It was just a name along with a bunch of other names back then," Sutherland said. "We thought we'd see how far he could take it and see where he ends up. He just kept getting better and better and better."

For his strong efforts this season, Harle was announced as the first-ever recipient of the Canada Cup for men's slopestyle, which is given to the best skier in each discipline competing below the national team level. The Canada Cup has been awarded to the top moguls skiers since 2011, but this is the first time the criteria has been expanded to include aerial, halfpipe and slopestyle competitors.

The award is based on an athlete's three best point totals from the season, and Harle's three best earnings lined up to top all comers in each category. All told, he topped runner-up Tanner Gordon 2050 to 1350.

Harle admitted he was taken aback by the honour.

"I didn't even know about the award until I got it in the mail," he said.

Explaining it's unwise to focus on results and more advisable to concentrate on the process, Harle noted he was pleasantly surprised by how things played out in both areas this season.

"My season was awesome, way better than expected," he said. "You can't really set goals on results, but landing runs and the types of runs that I was doing were better than what I was expecting I'd be doing this year.

"I learned the tricks and just had them. I learned them quicker than I thought I would learn them."

Having the expanded range of tricks in his arsenal after focusing on his training allowed Harle to climb the ranks in competition as well.

The quick turnaround of tricks from brainstorm to execution was not lost on Sutherland, as he considers that ability among Harle's greatest assets.

"His ability to learn new tricks and take a trick from just a thought and go through the steps and take it to snow in a short period of time and put it in an environment where it's ready to compete (stands out)," he said. "From talking to his coaches... 14 months ago, he had never done doubles on snow and a year later, he did his first triples.

"He's got a handful of doubles that are competitive with the best in the world and every time he adds another 180 degree rotation to any axis, it doesn't take long. It's ready to go."

Sutherland attributes that quickness to Harle's upbringing on mountains, as his parents and coaches meticulously prepared him properly from the get-go. Without foundational issues working against him, there are fewer steps to take and corrections to make as he establishes new tricks.

"He has all the tools he needs to climb the ladder without any major hiccups," Sutherland said. "None of it's easy, but he's not faced with any major challenges as far as technical skills."

In advance of next season, he'll be training plenty, primarily at home with Momentum Ski Camps, but also rattled off Oregon's Mount Hood and even New Zealand as potential training spots he may use to mix things up a bit.

Sutherland hopes to get Harle into as many major events as possible next season, putting up the Dew Tour as priority no. 1 and the X Games as the next accomplishment on the list.

In terms of the team as a whole, if all goes well, Harle will be one of four male slopestyle skiers — the maximum any single country can send — at the South Korean Olympics in just under three years' time.

"I want to get him as many competitive opportunities as possible at the top level," Sutherland said. "That said, I don't want training to be put on the backburner because our qualifying for the Olympics will start in a little over a year."

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