Skier Cassie Sharpe fell just short of posting the best superpipe run in Dew Tour action in Breckenridge, Colo. on Dec. 11.
But the 23-year-old Whistler resident put up the second-best score in the finals and — in a show of consistency none of the other finalists enjoyed — the third-best score as well.
Sharpe began the finals with a sterling score of 86.40, placing her three points back of Ayana Onozuka at the midpoint. That score was dropped in favour of a one-point improvement, which wasn't enough to blaze past the 2014 Winter Olympic bronze medallist, but did secure Sharpe a spot on the podium in second overall.
Brita Sigourney rounded out the podium in third place.
Sharpe explained while the pipe may not have been agreeable to some of the others, she enjoyed what she saw.
"The lines were really flat and the pipe was really slow, but I work well in those kinds of conditions," she said. "I landed my (900) and I connected all my tricks. The second run was the best — I got all my grabs and all that, so I'm stoked!"
With such a short competition season, there is plenty of time for athletes to work on improving in the offseason, but there can be little room for error when the season-opener rolls around.
"It's always a nice little confidence booster in the first contest of the year, especially with such a big event," Sharpe said. "It's a really, really good feeling. It validates all the hard work I've been doing all summer with the training camps, the fitness testing, all the time we spent in New Zealand.
"It makes it all worth it and I'm ready for the rest of the season."
Like many competitors, Sharpe spent the offseason working to add new tricks to her bag, finding her focus after consulting those who were paying close attention to her runs in 2014-15.
"I was told last year by a couple judges that my run never really scored as high because I didn't have a right spin, technically," she recalled. "They wanted to see right spins and they wanted to see a switch hit.
"All summer in New Zealand, I was working on getting my switch game up, because I never really knew how to ride switch."
Sharpe had plenty of kind words for her competition, expressing admiration for the others who were alongside the podium with her in particular. The flip side of the praise she bestowed is that she also announced a strong ending to last season was no accident. Sharpe capped last winter with a second place at the World Ski Championships and a win in Tignes, France.
"The girls were really pushing themselves and I respect that so much. Brita, especially, was boosting so big and Ayana is so technical. She's got so many switch hits and she's so good at what she does," Sharpe lauded. "The level of competition was so high.
"For a long time... I don't know if I thought maybe I didn't deserve to be in it or if I thought I wasn't up to them yet because they've been in it for so long. I'm kind of new to it, so it kind of validates that as well."
While thrilled to see a small but supportive Friday morning crowd for the event, Sharpe expressed some disappointment that those who couldn't sojourn to Breckenridge couldn't tune in live to see her compete. While the Dew Tour website live-streamed many of the events, Sharpe's wasn't one of them.
"They didn't provide a live feed for our finals, which was a little bit disappointing, but the people who were here got pretty hyped and really, really stoked on the riding we were all doing," she said. "It's something to work on, for them. There's been a lot of feedback about that especially the girls talking about it and tweeting about it.
"Hopefully there's a live feed next year for our finals."
Squamish's Roz Groenewoud also made the final by handily winning the last chance qualifier. Once in the final, however, she couldn't quite reach the same heights, posting a top score of 70.20 to end up in fifth.
Darcy Sharpe stomps run to place third
Darcy Sharpe kicked off the 2015-16 season in style.
The Whistler snowboarder, originally from Comox, put up a best score of 87.00 to take third place in the Dew Tour's slopestyle competition on Dec. 13. Fellow Canadian Mark McMorris put down a jaw-dropping run to run away with first place at 94.40 while Norwegian competitor Staale Sandbech took second with a 90.00.
"I would say I'm really happy. It was fun competing in this contest with good jump lines to kick the season off. I was very eager to get back into it," Sharpe said. "It was epic.
"There was a lot of support around the Canadians and (for) everybody there."
Sharpe's first run was his best, as he performed a crystal clean run highlighted by a trio of 1080 rotations and a big switch backside 1260.
Sharpe said those in attendance were excited for the final event of the Dew Tour, and he proved to be a popular attraction for some.
"It was a pretty good crowd. Not too big, but there were a lot of teenage girls wanting to get pictures with me," the 19-year-old said.
Sharpe also picked up a win in the street style event on Dec. 11 — his third straight in the fan-favourite event held on Breckenridge's Washington Avenue.
National slopestyle coach Elliot Catton was thrilled with the squad's showing.
''The team vibe was great all day,'' he said. ''The boys are all really supportive of each other. Having five Canadians in finals was awesome and any one of them could have put down a podium run. Today it was Mark and Darcy's day.''
Next up for Sharpe is the Laax Open in Switzerland from Jan. 19 to 23. With the schedule being fairly compact from then to the end of the season in April, he said he's appreciative of the opportunity to go home to Vancouver Island then spend some time ripping it here in the Sea to Sky before bouncing from resort to resort on the competitive circuit.
"January 'til April, it pretty much never ends," he said. "We like that time off to snowboard for all the right reasons, and have fun and stay healthy with no pressure for awhile.
"You wish it was longer, sometimes."
Yuki Tsubota was the only other Whistlerite to make finals in Breckenridge, taking a fifth-place finish in the freeski slopestyle event. Tsubota earned a top score of 74.20 while Kelly Sildaru powered through to the victory with a score of 90.80.
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