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Three Whistler skiers named to Next Snow team

Five athletes make it through icy Killington qualifier

In conditions that can only be described as icy and cold, all five Whistler athletes who qualified for the Sports Illustrated Next Snow Finals this past weekend held their own against some of the top young skiers and riders from Canada and the U.S.

The field included 150 athletes who were selected from over 4,000 participants at 80 qualifier events across North America. Whistler’s qualifier event was held in January.

The first day was the qualifier for the rest of the weekend and the field was cut down to 50 athletes. All five Whistler athletes – Kerry-Anne Hamilton, Logan Pehota, Max Ripper, Cameron Schuster and Devin White – made the cut after competing in moguls and carving events.

The next day the athletes competed in the AOL Big Mountain Challenge on a double black slope, the Kids’ WB Dual Challenge Race on a dual giant slalom course, and the Big Air Fire and Snow Show.

The third and final day featured the Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Slopestyle and the First Descent Superpipe. There was also a rail jam on Sunday.

When results were tabulated, three of the Whistler athletes were named to the 25-member Sports Illustrated for Kids Next Snow Team.

Kerry-Anne Hamilton, 11, was the top woman in the superpipe. The walls were icy, "but you could still get out over the wall," she said. "It was icy but still manageable."

She also finished third in the slopestyle, where she made all of her grabs over the table jumps, and threw a twister in for good measure – showing off her freestyle background.

Her favourite event was the dual giant slalom. "You were really racing the clock, but it was fun to have someone in the lane beside you to race against," she said. "I made two runs, and in both runs I was up against boys, and I beat them both."

By making the Next Snow Team, Hamilton is guaranteed a spot in the Next Snow All Stars at Keystone, Colorado in 2007. Hamilton went to the 2006 All Star event after being chosen by the judges at the Whistler Qualifier, and won the opportunity to ski in the finals.

Hamilton is already a sponsored skier, with gear from Head/Tyrolia, and support from Whistler Real Estate, Epic Rides, and Rogers Mountain Wireless. Her goal for the rest of the season is to enter as many local events as possible, and "to get better and better."

The last time she checked, a week ago, she already had 56 days on skis this year, "and I’m still really enjoying it."

Logan Pehota, 10, also went to the All-Star competition at Keystone, but didn’t compete after crashing during training and suffering a minor concussion. He was back on skis within a week, and training for the finals, which he qualified for the previous year after being named to the 2005 Next Snow Team.

Pehota was strong on day one, and showed he was a chip off the old block by winning the big mountain event. Logan’s father Eric is a big mountain skiing pioneer with a lot of first descents down gnarly and steep terrain to his credit.

According to Logan, "it was icy, definitely a lot tougher than here. But I felt pretty confident."

What set him apart was his use of the terrain and willingness to get air when the landings were rock hard. One of his landings was so hard he whacked his chin off a knee hard enough to make it bleed.

Pehota also posted fast times in the dual slalom, but opted out of the evening big air event because of the hard landing. Hamilton did the same.

"It was pretty dangerous, there were like 20 kids injured in practice and the whole competition," said Pehota.

He is just getting into riding the terrain park, but posted strong enough results in both halfpipe and slopestyle to make the Next Snow Search Team.

Cameron Schuster also qualified, after finishing third in the big air on Saturday, and then throwing a huge mute grab cab 900 in the slopestyle.

Devin White did not qualify, but according to Eric Pehota he probably finished easily in the top-25 in terms of score. The judges wanted to include both genders, skiers and snowboarders and all age groups on the final team, regardless of scores.

As for Max Ripper, he had a solid two days of competition but his age group in the snowboard category was extremely tough, with a lot of kids from the east coast who were used to the icy conditions.

Complete results will be posted at