Canadian skiers ready for world freeskiing tour 

Expected to battle French skiers for top spots once again

They might not have a national event to compete in this season but based on last year’s results 13 Canadians have qualified for the 2005 world freeskiing tour and all but three of them have been based in Whistler.

Ian McIntosh is the top ranked Canadian at number two in the world, behind French gun Manu Gaidet, while Moss Patterson, the winner of last year’s sickbird competition in Whistler for the most impressive cliff jump, is ranked ninth.

Dana Flahr, Leif Zapf-Gilje, Shane Carmichael, Mattieu Richard and Mike Stevenson are the other Whistler freeskiers who have qualified for the tour.

The battle for the men’s title this year is again shaping up as a struggle between French and Canadian freeskiers as three of the top five qualifying positions are occupied by French skiers with the top U.S. skier, Ben Walker, in fifth.

On the women’s tour the U.S. athletes are more dominant but several Whistler skiers should push for the top spots. Anik Demers is rated fifth and is the top Canadian, while Laura Ogden has been seeded at seventh and Victoria Cole is 19th.

Despite the success of Whistler’s skiers on the big mountain scene, Whistler-Blackcomb has announced that it did not have the resources or capital to support the Canadian Freeskiing Championships this season. The main reason for this decision is because the freeskiing championships would clash with the FIS Snowboard World Championships in January, but there were also several other issues to do with safety and sponsorship dollars. Whistler-Blackcomb has asked for the event organizors to generate around $50,000 worth of sponsorship to ensure the event resumes next year.

The decision to cancel this year’s event caused some uproar in the skiing community (a petition is still sitting at the True Matrix Core shop in Whistler) but it also prompted some intense discussion about the company that organizes the freeskiing world tour, the International Free Skiers Association or IFSA.

Through the freeskiing world tour the IFSA has helped promote some of the world’s best skiers but the sport has been experiencing the same kind of growth problems as professional surfing did in the 1980s and 90s.

Professional surfing, which is run by the Association of Surfing Professionals, or ASP, now has a world tour that generates enormous publicity with annual events as well as a strict qualification schedule.

But 10 years ago professional surfing was having problems attracting sponsors and finding venues because many the best waves are kilometres away from where the public can watch and sometimes the right swells just don’t arrive.

This is similar to freeskiing, where some of the best terrain is almost impossible for the public to get to and there is often not enough snow to hold a safe event.


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