Two Whistler Freeride Club athletes qualify for Junior Worlds 

Leif Gascoigne and Ryder Bulfone will head to Austria next month

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Leif Gascoigne of the Whistler Freeride Club, shown here pulling off a truck driver, will head to next month's Freeride Junior World Championships in Kappl, Austria.
  • Photo submitted
  • Leif Gascoigne of the Whistler Freeride Club, shown here pulling off a truck driver, will head to next month's Freeride Junior World Championships in Kappl, Austria.

Two Whistler Freeride Club athletes will take on the world in Austria next month.

Leif Gascoigne and Ryder Bulfone were confirmed by the Freeride World Tour earlier this month as two of Canada's entries into the ski men's category in the Freeride Junior World Championships (FJWC) in January.

For the second year in a row, the competition will be held in Kappl, Austria.

After taking a fifth-place finish at the North American Junior Freeride Championship at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in April, Gascoigne did the math and found his point totals should be high enough to earn one of the Canadian spots. It was officially confirmed to him in the fall and announced via a Freeride World Tour email on Dec. 3.

"I knew a bit before," Gascoigne said.

Gascoigne said he's excited to go overseas for the first time and take in all the continent has to offer.

"I've never been to Europe before, so it'll be exciting and new. It's the same venue as last year, so it's a pretty big competition," he said.

North American competitors will be challenged with visual inspection, an added layer to European competition. While in local events, competitors can ski the competition area beforehand, it is not allowed in European contests and they must meticulously scout and plan lines from afar.

"It's the most challenging part, probably. We'll have to work on it this year with our coaches," Gascoigne said. "We practiced doing it last year a little bit and it was pretty challenging."

In competition, Gascoigne likes to go all out and trick-wise, leans toward the truck driver, grabbing his skis with both hands.

"I like to go fast and charge hard," he said.

Whistler Freeride Club head coach Derek Foose echoed Gascoigne's self-assessment, going into further detail describing his bulldozing approach to skiing.

"Leif is the 100-per-cent full-throttle charger," Foose said. "From top to bottom, [he's going] full speed, always looking for big features, and looking for lines where he doesn't really have to slow down much. He can go full monster-truck style."

While Bulfone declined to be interviewed for this story as he hoped to keep things "low key" before Junior Worlds, Foose noted that Gascoigne and Bulfone enjoy skiing together despite employing dramatically different approaches to the sport.

"Ryder is very much the flowmaster. He's smooth, hoppy, playful and really reads terrain differently than a lot of other people, which makes his competition runs quite unique a lot of the time," Foose said.

New Zealand-based club members and twin brothers Lach and Fynn Powell, who ski with the club in the winter before returning home and competing in their home country's junior tour, also qualified for the FJWC. On their home circuit, Lach finished first while Fynn was third overall.

"It's pretty sick to have the New Zealand team and the Canadian team represent Whistler Freeride Club," he said.

Foose said he and the coaching staff enjoy pinpointing their charges' strengths and developing them into an exciting and effective rider.

"We find what makes them unique in skiing and really try to shine a spotlight on that. This particular niche of skiing, competitive freeride, is great for that because it's so wide open. It's pretty free form," he said.

Whistler Freeride Club has annually qualified riders for the FJWC, so it's become part of the club mindset that the international level isn't far away.

"They've seen the other kids go through it and I guess it's in the back of everyone's mind during the competition season, but it's not something that's a set goal. If you do the things that it takes to succeed, then that's an outcome of that," Foose said.

Heading into the club's season, in a general sense, Foose said things were positive in terms of numbers and stoke, though everyone was disappointed to push back the on-snow portion because of low-snow conditions early in the year.

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