Alta states 

Jeff Ihaksi: Course builder to the ’cross stars

click to enlarge Jeff Ihaksi
  • Jeff Ihaksi

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“I think I was one of the first snowboarders to be employed at Blackcomb,” he says. And laughs quietly, almost to himself. “You know, lifties did a lot of riding in those days. I managed to log in some serious ride-time between my work hours.”

And it was obvious the teenager had talent. Gravitating towards a hard-charging group of like-minded riders — “There were four or five of us in our gang,” he says. “And we rode together pretty much full-time.” — Ihaksi continued to hone his mountain skills.

“I look back to those first few seasons with a lot of fondness,” he says. “I mean, in those early years, you would remember the details from every winter — how much snow had fallen, how may days you’d ridden, what the conditions were like.” Almost like a cult? “Kind of,” he answers…

Like all new, developing sports, snowboarding was branching out and establishing new beachheads. “For a while there,” remembers Ihaksi, “you could do it all: halfpipe, boardercross, backcountry. But I soon realized I wasn’t going to become ‘the halfpipe guy’, so I decided to specialize.”

And so, along with a handful of Whistler buddies — Andrew Murphy, Omar Lundie, Mark ‘Toaster’ Torlay and Shaun V — Ihaksi decided to immerse himself in the fast-paced world of boardercross.

“There was no national team or anything like that back then. It was all on our own dime. We were the Whistler crew. And we’d come up against other crews from other mountains. But it was great fun.” Another burst of happy laughter. “There was definitely more camaraderie than organization in those days…”

Meanwhile, Ihaksi was still a W/B employee. “The four-days-on, three-days-off schedule worked out really well for me,” he says. Still, every minute of holiday time was set aside for boardercross races. He smiles. “And nothing much has changed since then. Even this year, all my holiday time has gone to course building.”

So when did he change from racer to builder? “One winter — 1998 or ’99 I can’t remember — I ended up travelling with the operations manager for our race circuit.” A guy by the name of Paul ‘Ranch’ Rossi, he was also responsible for building the ’cross courses at each venue. “At first, Ranch would build them and I’d test them out for him.” But doing both was a hugely daunting task and Ihaksi slowly started taking over the course work from the busy manager.

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