For the second year in a row, the Garnier Fructis World Skiing Invitational will take centre stage at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, with more than $50,000 up for grabs in the Salomon Big Air and Salomon Superpipe/SuperHit competitions.
Although the list of athletes changes from day to day, at press time the list of competitors was as impressive as any weve seen in the four years of the WSI.
It all takes place on Saturday, with the Superpipe/SuperHit competitions taking place on Blackcomb from noon to 2 p.m. The Superpipe is an open jam format contest where the skiers squeeze in as many runs as they can into a fixed period of time, with their best run counting towards their final score. The SuperHit contest is an athlete-judged contest where the best trick in the Superpipe walks away with the prize.
The Big Air taking place under the lights from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Get there early for the Big Air, as a crowd of up to 10,000 spectators is expected.
Salomon Big Air
Mark Abma Mark is from Langley, lives in Whistler, and can be found at just about every high profile new school skiing event on the calendar. Hes a strong, aggressive skier, but has a lot of style. At the U.S. Open, he was fifth in the Slopestyle, and fourth in the Big Air. He also took the Atomic Superpipe at home, and he wants nothing more than to take a WSI title. He skis for K2, K2 Clothing and Smith.
Iannick B. Iannick B. hails from St-Georges-de-Champlain, Quebec, and was fifth in the WSI Big Air last season and sixth behind Abma in the U.S. Open Slopestyle. He skis for Salomon, Orage, Silver Cartel and Arnette.
Phil Belanger Phil divides his time between his hometown of Lac-Beauport, Quebec and Mammoth, California, and is quite simply one of the most dangerous skiers in sport. Not only does he dare to go bigger than anybody, you get the sense that he would go even bigger than that if physics and gravity would allow it. This year the Dynastar, Phenix, Smith, Goode, Level, and D-Structure sponsored skier was sixth in the X-Games Superpipe.
David Crichton Hailing from Manotick, Ontario, the former freestyle skier turned heads at the WSI two years ago with a win in the slopestyle and place second in the Big Air at the age of 17. Since then he has gotten better and bigger, and is ranked among the top freeskiers in the world. He won the SuperHit contest last year after landing a huge D-Spin 900 that cleared about 70 feet in distance. He currently skis for Dynastar, Silver Cartel, D-Structure, Spy, Hansens, Giro and DNA.
Mickael Deschaenaux Descheneaux made history and turned heads this year when he beat out favourite Tanner Hall 2-1 in a best-of-three Big Air Final in the U.S. Open with a cab 1080 tail grab. Deschaenaux hails from Champery, Switzerland, and skis for Dynastar and Oakley.
Vinnie Dorion Dorion is one of the top freeskiers in the world, and is credited with practically inventing the new school ski movement alongside a tight group of other Quebec skiers. He hails from St. Jerome, Quebec, is 24-years-old, and has wins both in the WSI and U.S. Freeskiing Open to his credit. He is sponsored by Salomon and Helly Hansen.
Simon Dumont Riding for Salomon, Oakley, Giro, Sublux and ETC, Dumont was fourth in the U.S. Open Slopestyle this year, and sixth in the Superpipe. He hails from Bethel, Maine, and is one of the most consistent skiers on the tour.
Boyd Easley Boyd is easily one of the most famous skiers in the world, landing podiums in just about every pro freeskiing competition there is over the last few years. He hails from Flint, Michigan, and this season was third in the U.S. Open Superpipe. Sponsors include Armada and Oakley.
Braden "Pep" Fujas Pep hails from Mammoth, California, skis for K2 and Oakley, is 20-years-old, and appears to be fearless. Last year he was launching so far out of the Superpipe in the WSI that a mistake would have been dangerous. He was seventh in the U.S. Open slopestyle, and second in the X-Games slopestyle this season, and is only getting better.
Tanner Hall Tanner has been in two Whistler competitions, the Superfly Slopestyle in 2000 and the 2002 WSI Big Air, and won both events. He was second in the Superpipe at the X-Games last year, and first in the slopestyle at the X-Games and U.S. Open. He hails from Kalispell, Montana, and at the age of 19 is without question the top freeskier in the world today. Sponsors include Armada and Oakley.
Nick Mercon Nick, also known as Wang Chung, is 24 and skis out of Breckenridge Colorado. He is smooth, goes big, and is a threat in every contest he enters. So far this year he has finished third in the U.S. Open slopestyle and eighth in the X-Games slopestyle. He skis for K2, Smith and Rip Curl, and is known for his huge 1080s.
Mike Nick Mike is 26, owns Silver Cartel, and lives within a stones throw of Stratton Mountain in Vermont. He has medals in most of the major contests, and was third in the WSI last year with a unique jump, a switch zero spin basically you take off backwards, throw in a clean backflip and land backwards on the transition. Hes sponsored by Orage.
Shoya Okazaki One of the top-ranked Japanese pros making their presence felt on the circuit, Okazaki comes from a freestyle moguls background he still competes on the World Cup and skis for Salomon.
Steele Spence Steele, 20, is best known for his rail-skiing, but this Snowmass, Colorado skier can do it all. He was fourth in the X-Games slopestyle, and skis for Atomic, Smith and Rip Curl.
John Symms John just turned 20 on April 18, and skis out of Snowmass Village, Colorado. He was third in the U.S. Open big air this year and sixth in the Superpipe. He was also seventh in the X-Games superpipe. Sponsors include Salomon, Smith, Orage and Endless.
Rex Thomas T-Rex is calling Kicking Horse in Golden home these days, and is one of the hardest working and most colourful skiers out there. Hes also pretty skilled, and at 23, is already a veteran on the circuit with a number of top results to his credit, including a third-place finish in a WSI Big Air. He skis for Atomic, Orage, Scott USA, W Helmets and Comor Sports.
Candide Thovex From France, Thovex is one of the tightest and most creative freeskiers youll ever see in action. This year he won the X-Games Superpipe by almost six points, and was fifth in the slopestyle. Last season he finished second in the WSI Superpipe, and he is a threat in every contest he enters. He is a prominent member of the Salmon team.
Chris Turpin Whistlers Chris Turpin is a smooth, smooth skier who some believe should have won the WSI Big Air last year. As it was he finished second, and was also in the running for the WSI superhit award with a twisting inverted trick that he takes off and lands backwards. Skiing for K2, Scott and Billabong, Turpin is a threat to win at home this year.
Andrew Woods From the backwoods of Northern Vermont, Woods astounded everybody at the U.S. Freeskiing Open in 2000 when he nailed the first ever 1260 in the Big Air competition. This year he was fifth in the U.S. Open superpipe. He skis for Dynastar, Lange, DNA, Electric and Vermont North.
The stand-by list includes Matthew Sterbenz, Peter Olenick, Charles Gagnier, Mike Wilson, Josh Bibby, Anthony Boronowski and Mike Schimke.
From the Big Air list, the Superpipe list includes Mark Abma, Phil Belanger, David Crichton, Simon Dumont, Boyd Easley, Pep Fujas, Tanner Hall, Nick Mercon, Shoya Okazaki, John Symms, Candide Thovex, Chris Turpin and Andrew Woods. Other participating skiers include:
Scott Hibbert Hibbert, like Crichton, hails from Manotick, Ontario, and he skis for Volkl, Technica, Spy, Boeri, and T&L Ski Shop. And, like Crichton, he is in his third year competing at freeski events, and recently was the winner on the Molson Snow Jam summer tour.
Phil Larose Larose won the U.S. Open Superpipe two years in a row, and at 22 is one of the top freeskiers in the world. Although he is young, he is also credited as being one of the pioneers of the new school skiing revolution. Although he has had his share of injuries in the last few years, he doesnt hold back. He lives in Lac-Beauport, Quebec, and skis for Dynastar, Phenix and Smith.
Jordan Monk Monk won the WSI Superpipe last year as the only competitor to stick his 1080 attempt. It was a huge upset for the 18-year-old Winnipeg native, who wasnt even on the invite list. He made his way through the qualifiers, then beat on the top names in the sport to win the title. A former freestyler, Monk is tall, smooth, and makes it look easy. He skis for Columbia, Smith, Dynastar, Gords Ski Shop and Fresh.
Jon Olsson From Sweden, this 19-year-old is one of the most dynamic and versatile skiers out there. At the U.S. Open this season he was second in the slopestyle and fourth in the Superpipe. At the X-Games he was third in both the slopestyle and the superpipe. He skis for Oakley and Head, and could easily win at the WSI.
Phil Poirier Like Dorion and Larose, Poirier is a pioneer of the new school freeski movement, and helped to develop the twin-tip skis that are so commonplace these days. In the previous two WSI events, he has a win in the big air and a third in the Superpipe, and he also has won his share of podiums in major events. He spends more time filming these days, and the 25-year-old from St. Jerome, Quebec, is a serious contender in every event he enters. His sponsors are Oakley, Rossignol, Auclair, Base, Globel, Le Petit Caribou and Mont Tremblant.
Jon Reedy This 19-year-old skis out of Whistler these days, and won the Superpipe in the U.S. Open this season. Hes a solid skier with a big bag of tricks, and makes full use of his twin tips in competitions. He skis for Dynastar and DNA.
Greg Tuffelmire Tuffelmire hails for Summit County, Colorado, is 26-years-old, and is a regular feature in videos and magazines these days. He is a strong skier, and currently represents ONeill, Volkl, Technica, Smith and Auclair.
The Stand-by list of men includes Steele Spence, Jay Vaughan, Charles Gagnier, Jon Kozody and Peter Olenick.
The list of female competitors includes:
Jessica Bennie Bennie skis out of Whistler, and can spin 720s in competitions. She first got noticed when she over-rotated a 720 in a competition, and before she recovered, a rep was asking her if she was sponsored. She skis for Atomic, Orage, Scott USA, W Helmets, 604, and Jib Culture.
Sarah Burke Sarah lives in Mammoth these days, but spent her salad days in Whistler. She is one of the top women freeskiers in the world, winning almost every contest with a huge bag of tricks and nice amplitude. She is the only girl to stomp a 1080. She was second in the U.S. Open superpipe this year, and first in the slopestyle. She skis for the Salomon team.
Jessica Cumming Cumming is a relative newcomer to the sport, but already is sponsored by Rossignol and Predator.
Hannah Epps From Wisconsin, Epps has competed in the U.S. Freesking Open in the past, and is steadily making her way into the mainstream. She skis for Salomon and Scott USA.
Virginie Faivre This Ste-Legier, Switzerland skier was fourth the U.S. Open slopestyle this year and fifth in the superpipe.
Kristi Leskinen Kristi skis out of Mammoth, California where she trains with Sarah Burke. She is also a pro wakeboarder, and has a strong style.
She is sponsored by Oakley.
Marie Martinod From France, Martinod edged out Burke in the U.S. Open superpipe this year and is one of the top women competing on the circuit. Her sponsors are Oakley and Dynastar.
Kristina Richards Based in Penticton, Richards skis for K2, Scott and Apex Mountain Resort
Kim Stacey Stacey is an accomplished pro snowboarder and former Olympian who recently got back into skiing as well. She finished third in the U.S. Open superpipe this year, and is not currently sponsored.
Jamie Sundberg Sundberg is based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and, like Stacey, recently made the switch from pro rider to pro skier. She is sponsored by The North Face, Atomic, Scott USA, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The list of stand-bys include Karin Corcoran, Candice Drouin and Denis Jaworsky.