WSSF opens with big air, big party 

Ripzone Invitational draws top snowboarding talent

The World Ski and Snowboard Festival is one of the few events out there that actually lives up to the hype, and few events are as hyped as the WSSF.

There are so many bands to see and things to do that you’d have to be an insomniac with ADHD to catch even half of the festival, but there are a few key items on the itinerary that no self-respecting snow sports enthusiast is going to want to miss.

The Ripzone Snowboard Invitational, a new event for the WSSF, kicks off the festival with some of the top pro riders from North America and Europe in big air and superpipe contests.

The big air training begins on April 12, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the village base of Whistler Mountain. The warmup, and start of the concert, takes place on Saturday between 3 and 4 p.m.. The competition starts at 4 p.m. and will run until around 6 p.m.

The list of competitors was chosen by an advisory panel of riders and industry people, including Adrian Millar from Ripzone, U.S. halfpipe rider Rob Kingwill, Canadian big air champion Kevin Sansalone, Sean Lake from Burton, and Mark Taylor and Lindsay McWilliam from MASEV Communications.

Sansalone was going to compete in the big air, but was sidelined recently with a knee injury while park jumping in California. "I overshot a gap and landed pretty hard on my knee," says Sansalone, who rides for Vancouver-based Option Snowboards. "It’s not completely wrecked but it’s enough to keep me out for the weekend. I was looking forward to it."

Although he can’t jump, he did give perspective on some of the riders participating in the Big Air this weekend.

Alex Auchu, Whistler – "He’s this super good, French Canadian kid who goes big. He’s a prodigy of (pro snowboarder) J.F. Pelchat, and one of the new kids coming up from here. He lives in Whistler now."

James Beach, Calgary – "He’s a really good ripper who is just amazing in all events. He’s good in the halfpipe, in quarterpipes, in slopestyles, big air contests, everything."

Dionne Delesalle, North Vancouver – "He’s a really good friend of mine from North Vancouver, and one of the Wildcats."

Guy Deschenes, Whistler – "Another French Canadian kid, representing the 418 crew."

Jonas Emery, Switzlerand – "I don’t know him super well. I know he’s pretty crazy, a good racer, and does well in every contest."

Jesse Fox, Collingwood Ontario – "I don’t know him that well, just that he’s young and talented."

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