Leeder of the telemarkers 

Local free-heeler wants to make mark among freeskiers

Dropping cliffs for a living is a risky way to earn a dollar in the best of conditions, but what about freeskiiers such as local legend Steve Leeder who choose to compete on telemark skis?

Telemark skiing or "free-heeling" dates back to the origins of skiing when mountaineers only clamped their toes into their skis and used them, mostly, for going uphill rather than straight off a mountain.

But this week at the Canadian Freeskiing Championships in Whistler, Leeder will attempt to use a modern version of an historic ski technique to make a name for himself against some of the best skiers in the world.

While Leeder has a different method of competing, his struggle for sponsorship and recognition in an industry that does not have a lot of disposable income is a common one.

His methods of mental preparation for a big competition and his strategy should also serve as an inspiration for those hoards of locals who have contemplated competition.

"My plan is… don’t fall, don’t stop and give ’er like a skidoo," Leeder said on the eve of qualifying.

Leeder admitted the runs he had chosen for this competition were dominating his thought’s every day, and also in his sleep.

"I haven’t been sleeping too well but I’ll probably go partying and then I’ll definitely get some sleep," he said.

Leeder’s comments about competition might sound blasé but his story changes rapidly when he talks about winning.

Leeder spent all summer painting houses just so he would have the money to ski full-time. He’s been training in Whistler all season while his wife is in Australia.

He came fourth last year in qualifying. To save money, he lives in a recreational vehicle on Blueberry so, for many reasons, Leeder harbours an intense desire to improve this year.

"If I do well here this year my sponsors might finally start to realize I’m not just a chump trying to get free gear," he said.

Leeder conceded he probably would have missed the Freeskiing Championships had local shop Escape Route not paid for his $300 entry fee.

"The first year I travelled on the world freeskiing tour it cost $3,200 in entrance fees, that’s not including the money I needed to just get to contests, and I got in so much debt it’s ridiculous.

"A lot of companies don’t account for the (skier’s) everyday costs or the money it takes to get to things like photo shoots.

"I haven’t won any money yet, but I think if we all try and do better as competitors then there will be more money from the sponsors, which will mean more money for the sport."

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