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Jeff Ihaksi: Course builder to the ’cross stars

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  • Jeff Ihaksi

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Jeff Ihaksi is the rarest of creatures. You tell him you want to do a story on his ’cross course design work — his experience at the Torino Games, his excitement at being the designated builder for the 2010 events at Cypress — and the first thing that comes out of his mouth is: “Make sure you get the point across that this is total teamwork. I may get the credit, but without the hand-shapers and the dyers and the safety people, there’s no way I could do my job properly. Everyone involved contributes to the success of a course…”

The second thing that comes out of his mouth is: “Do you think you could also mention how helpful Whistler-Blackcomb has been to my career? Whether racing or building courses, I’ve always gotten 100 per cent support from my bosses there. Could you also mention the guys I work with at lift-maintenance? They’ve been great too.”

Mention made. So who is this hard-working man married to former Olympian rider (and TV commentator), Tara Teigen? Who is this humble, friendly guy who just happens to be in huge demand around the world — both in ski and snowboard circles — for the artful way he designs and builds ’cross courses? I mean, shouldn’t we know more about him?

“I grew up in Vancouver,” he tells me. “Actually in Anmore, just up the hill above Port Moody…”

His parents were avid skiers. “Every second weekend,” recounts the 34 year old, “we’d either go up north to Whistler or down south to Baker.” But still, that wasn’t enough for Jeff. “On off-weekends,” he says, “I’d get my parents to drive me to Burnaby, and from there I’d suffer the four bus transfers it took to get to Grouse.”

It was obvious the kid was hooked on mountain play. But when he discovered snowboarding — “around ’87 or ’88,” he says, “just around the time when Blackcomb was allowing it but Whistler wasn’t” — Ihaksi cranked it up another notch.

“Those were really exciting times,” he says. “There was this new culture developing in the local mountains and we were right in the middle of it.” By the season of 1991, Ihaksi had made up his mind. Now that high school was behind him, he was moving up to Whistler to indulge his passion full-tilt.

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