Local teen competes at her first Canadian Junior Freestyle Skiing Championships
An alpine racer for 10 years in slalom, GS, and Super-G, Tillsonburg’s Charlotte Bolton added freestyle skiing to her winter sports this year.
“I always liked the jumps and people always said, ‘You should do jumps, you should do jumps.’ My coach told me that years ago when we did training days for Super-G, because the Super-G courses have jumps in them. You’d do a ‘jump day’ and absorb them through tuck. People said, ‘You’re a natural, you should do jumps!'”
It led Bolton, 15, who has been on skis since she learned to walk, to compete in three forms of freestyle – big air, half-pipe and slopestyle – at the Canadian Junior Freestyle Skiing Championships in Calgary, March 8-10, site of the 1988 Winter Olympics where freestyle was first introduced as a demonstration sport.
In total, there were 18 competitors, including U14, her U16 division, and the U18 girls. Her results were “good for my first time,” she said.
“I think 10th in half-pipe (out of 18). Fifteenth in the big air, and 15th, I think, in slopestyle – a couple girls fell. Some of them were training their entire lives… I was just happy to be invited my first year (competing in freestyle).”
In slopestyle, athletes ski down a course that includes obstacles including rails, boxes and jumps. Points are scored for originality and quality of tricks.
“It’s not ‘in a row’… it’s spread out. So you basically pick a line, do that one or this one over here, and follow a path of what you want to do. So everyone going down the hill is not doing the same thing.”
Slopestyle is her favourite of the three events, but she admits she’s still learning the elements.
“I’m not very good at rails yet, because I never really did them, I did boxes,” she said, recalling her introduction to slopestyle-type jumps about 4-5 years ago at a local hill.
“I did it a little when I was younger. I did a camp for a couple weeks, and I liked it. Going off tiny little jumps and boxes, really small things. But I never really did rails.”
Rails, she said, would have wrecked her race skis, so it was an element she could only learn this season.
“I still cringe every time, ‘Oh my skis!’ I’ve only worn my twin tips (freestyle skis which allows skiers to take off or land backward while jumping) 14-ish days and I’ve worn my race skis all last season and this season, that’s over 100 days on snow… and my twin tips look worse. You destroy them.”
The half-pipe in Calgary was actually a ‘superpipe’, she said, with 22-foot high walls.
“It was crazy. I do like the half-pipe but we don’t train it very often… or at all.”
How does she do an event she hasn’t trained a lot for?
“Just go for it,” she laughed, never showing fear.
“The best thing about the half-pipe is up in the apex, the top of your jump, when you’re looking down – the wall curves in, so you’re literally floating up at the top.”
Big air involves going down a downhill ramp to perform one trick.
“One big jump. The ramp… I think it was a 45-foot jump. It had more lift than the ones I usually ski. But not as much as aerial ramps.”
Similar to half-pipe, she did not do a lot of training for big air at Mount St. Louis Moonstone, her home resort north of Barrie, which has a section with three jumps – 35, 45 and 55 feet.
“I’ve been over big jumps,” she said.
Her tricks include ‘grabs’ (mute, blunt, truck driver, Japan, and dead bug) and 180s.
“You grab your skis in different ways, that’s the best way to describe it. I can also do 180s and switch 180s.”
Comparing alpine to freestyle, Bolton said she does not really have a favourite – she enjoys both.
“They are very different… so different. The people are so laid back in freestyle.”
Her future in freestyle, however, is still ‘up in the air.’ She continued racing while learning freestyle, dropping down a level, but found the competition weekends in S.O.D. alpine and Timber Tour freestyle often conflicted. Typically, she had freestyle on Saturdays and raced on Sundays.
“I have to choose… it’s too difficult to do both because it overlaps. It was every other weekend, too. It could have balanced out, but no… the people planning it said ‘we’re going to plan our events on the exact same day – out of all these weekends.’
“So next year I have to choose,” she said with a sigh. “I think I might do freestyle, just because I’ve raced for so long. But… I don’t want to lose my friends (in racing).”