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Freestyle Whistler acquires new sloped landing bag

The airbag, as well as the planned Centre for Excellence, will help local athletes train at home like never before
Left to right: Freestyle Whistler athletes Eli Krumme, Jude Oliver, Yamato Buhler and Ty Reichert.

By investing in a number of key facility upgrades, Freestyle Whistler hopes to make the sport of skiing more affordable and accessible to all. 

Club leaders have finally managed to secure a brand new 32-metre landing bag. Program director Chris Muir explains that—unlike the organization’s old airbag, rented from a company in Squamish—the new equipment is shaped like a slope and thus able to accurately replicate any given jump in the terrain park. 

Whistler Blackcomb’s (WB) grooming department has also pitched in, building two landing bag ramps that are virtually identical to certain jumps found in the park. This adds an element of safety and familiarity for young athletes as they work on a variety of tricks: like the double 1080 that often serves as an introduction to high-level freestyle. 

“It’ll be an amazing learning tool for the kids to progress, but also to keep progression safe,” said Ray Krumme, whose daughter Avery will compete at the FIS Junior World Championships alongside fellow Squamolian Mattheus Heslop. “With the amount of landing bags that are popping up all over the world, if you don't have one nearby you're not going to develop athletes that are competitive on a national or international level.” 

Previously, Freestyle Whistler club members had to visit out-of-province facilities like the iMaximise snow park in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que. to brush up on their skills. Now they have an opportunity to train as much as realistically possible in their own backyard, reducing both travel fatigue and financial pressure. 

“Freestyle skiing does have a barrier to it, which is cost, so any training we can do at home is incredibly important,” Muir said. 

State-of-the-art training

More good stuff is on the way. 

Freestyle Whistler continues to deal with WB, Canada Snowboard and Freestyle Canada regarding the construction of a new Centre of Excellence (COE), and Muir anticipates ground to break sometime next spring or summer. This building is meant to encompass the current airbag as well as an even larger 60-metre bag and an improved water ramp setup. 

WB’s current water ramps, while not obsolete, are hardly cutting-edge. They see plenty of action throughout each summer, catering to everyone from youth athletes to members of the national and provincial moguls teams. The ramps themselves are ideally designed for moguls skiers and, while helpful, cannot offer an optimal training experience for slopestylers. 

Plus, one must currently travel to Austria or Australia in order to practice on a 60-metre landing pad, with neither trip being particularly cheap or expedient. (Quebec’s airbag is similar in size to Freestyle Whistler’s current apparatus). 

The COE would address both limitations. 

“It’s meant to be an absolute state-of-the-art summer training facility for freestyle skiers and snowboarders,” Muir explained. “Our hope is to be able to welcome the rest of Canada, as well as other countries. The one part of our plan that would be very different from anywhere else in the world is that we would run this facility in April and May, while the ski season is going.” 

Training with the kinds of amenities that the COE will one day possess is proven to be effective. Four Freestyle Whistler boys: Jude Oliver, Elijah Krumme, Ty Reichert and Yamato Buhler, spent time in Quebec last fall and ended up competing at a Canada Cup event in Sun Peaks. 

Oliver had the best results there: 16th in big air and 22nd in slopestyle, but all acquitted themselves fairly well. 

“Quebec’s an expensive trip for parents…but in terms of value for training, it’s there,” said Ty’s father, Stephen. “Having a new airbag and a COE is a great opportunity [for them to get even better]. 

“The kids are just developing like crazy right now. My kid’s in the 14-year-old age group and he has never seen a group like this before. They were competing against 17, 18 and 19-year-olds in Sun Peaks, and not a single one of them looked out of place.”