Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for August 23, 2013

Freestyle team holds onto hope as ski season nears

The territory’s top freestyle skiers could be found practising their jumps and flips last night at the local gymnastics club.

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Photo by Marcel Vander Wier

HANG TIME – Josh Harlow works on his freestyle jump repertoire under the watchful eye of his teammates and coach last night at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club.

The territory’s top freestyle skiers could be found practising their jumps and flips last night at the local gymnastics club.

Under the direction of coach Steven Harlow, the elite athletes spent a couple of hours working hard to add different variations to their repertoire of tricks.

Despite the closure of Mount Sima looming ever larger, the group continues to prepare as usual for the upcoming ski and snowboard season.

“We’re starting to do more training sessions and get ready for winter,” 17-year-old Josh Harlow told the Star last night.

“It’s going to be a hell of a lot more of a grind if we don’t have a ski hill. I’m hopeful that it will open, but at the same time, I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much.”

Last season, Harlow won the Yukon freestyle team’s first medal at the Canadian Junior Freestyle Ski Championships after winning the first medal for the territory at the Canadian Shield event in North Vancouver.

He had heightened expectations for himself this year, until Sima shut down. The Whitehorse ski hill closed last month, and began putting its assets up for sale.

“Unless we have a ski hill, it’s not realistic for my expectations to be higher,” Harlow said.

“But I’ll try to make it work and see what happens.”

The closure would be “brutal” for the Yukon Freestyle Ski Association, he added.

“We just got the air bag, and we all progressed so much last season … it was just going to get better from there,” said Harlow. “We were finally on the verge. We got a medal at nationals. For the younger kids especially, they’re getting really good really fast, so it’s pretty detrimental to the next few years for them.

“It’s probably the most important part about our winter,” he said of Sima. “If we don’t have it, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Without Sima, freestyle athletes would be relegated to trampoline training and travel to destinations Outside of the territory.

“We wouldn’t have a lot of actual jump training,” he said. “We might just find an area to set up the bag, build a jump and sled ride to the top of a hill and hit it. That’s the only thing I can think of.”

Earlier this month, a group of volunteers began working to get the hill operating again in time for the winter season, posting a survey online to gauge the level of community support for the hill. The survey asks Sima enthusiasts to make a donation or commit to purchase a season’s pass at a reduced rate.

The survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/savesima) will be available online until Sept. 1. Shortly after that, officials will determine whether or not the hill will open for the winter.

Despite the hill’s closure, the City of Whitehorse has paid off more than $190,000 of chairlift debt, while the Yukon government has pledged to pay off a further $190,000 in debts owed to several local businesses.

Those two acts give snowboarder Adam Waddington reason to believe Sima still has a chance to make a go of it this winter.

“I think it will come back together,” the 17-year-old said. “The fact that they don’t have any more debt, it’s just going to take a little bit of time for people to bring up the funds. There will be sponsors and all sorts of things and now that they’ve learned their lesson, I feel like it’s going to be well managed.”

Waddington will compete on the B.C. provincial team in Whistler this season.

The closure of the hill would affect his training schedule over Christmas holidays, but his concerns are more for the next generation of snowboarders.

“I have met lots of kids on the snowboard team who are really talented athletes on their way to being national-level athletes, but if Sima closes, that’s not going to happen,” Waddington said.

Snowboard Yukon will be active this winter, regardless of whether Mount Sima is available or not. The association is determined to field another outstanding team at the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, AK in March.

Tomorrow, the club will be part of a registration fair at the Canada Games Centre flexi-hall from 10 a.m. to noon.

The club has plans to expand its programs to other Yukon communities, including Watson Lake, Dawson City and Haines Junction this season.

Pre-season, mid-season and end-of-season camps are also scheduled to happen in Whistler, with dates to be confirmed.

For more details, visit http://www.snowboardyukon.com.

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