Get to know the freeski young gun who always has one in the chamber ready to blow minds.
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Words: cko, Mr.Bishop. Photos: cko
Also, check out Moose Magazine's online story for more: http://www.moose-mag.com/choix.html
In what was easily the most challenging weather day since, well, the last YGO stop at Seymour, John Strenio ended up out-lasting and out-skiing the other 100+ athletes in attendance at the third Young Gun Open stop at Mont Avila, Quebec.
Temps were super low and even the hardened frenchies like Iannick B were resorting to creative measures to keep warm, such as encasing themselves in their down sleeping bags while they judged. Some may call that excessive, but I called it being prepared. I myself managed to go through three packs of hand warmers that were supposed to last 7+ hours each. But enough dwelling on the weather, the competitors sucked it up and made it happen and they should all be proud that they didn't let little things like frostbite ruin their chance to compete.
The slopestyle course at Avila was the longest and most well-rounded of all the Young Gun events so far, with a solid selection of rails and boxes up top and a three-jump-line at the bottom or a choice of 4 rails, which some of the women decided to hit instead of the booters. Standing up top during warm-ups and the opening heats, I was treated to a talent level on rails that simply hasn't been seen in an amateur comp. The ladies showed no fear taking on every feature the course offered up while the men showed tons of creativity on the rails and in the air. It was really nice to see new grinds and new grabs especially at a grassroots event like this.
In the end it was John Strenio for the boys and Marie Goyette for the ladies that took home top spots. As always the top three finishers are invited to Stratton, VT for the final stop on the tour and a chance to get themselves into the super-final to battle for the overall Young Gun title. See you at Stratton.
Our own Doug Bishop took the opportunity to see how he stacked up against the rest of the East Coast talent, here's his account of the day...
The Young Gun tour has been sweeping across North America unearthing the raw talent that exists everywhere. The latest stop came up to Mont Avila, which just so happens to be where I ski, and not 45 minutes away from the NS office. I was excited to see how the Quebec stop went, and wanted to experience this contest that I had been hearing so much about. Somehow I got the crazy idea that I should compete in it, and try to write to you guys about my experience. I figured what the hell, it’d be a fun contest to do, and I actually had a few pretty good runs dialed in through the park. Maybe for once I could actually do well in a contest?
Sure this comp was called the YOUNG gun open, and clocking in at the ripe old age of 26, I guess I didn’t quite fit the namesake. However, that’s really not what it was about. More of a fun time for those who want to come out and partake in a regional contest, and compete for contracts, sponsorship, and overall skiing rockstar glory. The field of competitors was quite interesting. Everyone from 12-year old kids who wanted to ride in their first comp, to seasoned underground heroes like Antoine Gangier. Fuck, I love the way that guy skis…
I’ll get to all the details as I tell you about my day, but really I should start at the beginning.
I woke up at around 6:00am, hoping to leave by 6:45 and get to register early. Pick up some breakfast at the hill, and have a relaxed morning. As always, before I leave for the hill I check the weather at Avila. I clicked on my link to the weathernetwork, and saw that the temperature was clocking in at around -27 degrees celsius. I don’t know what that translates into in farenheit, but I would say it’s around REALLY FUCKING COLD. So I busted out my down, full ski mask, about 7 layers underneath, cup of hot coffee, and some of those cool hot paws hand warmer things. I departed the house, got into my car and headed to Avila.
When I got out of the car and was walking to the lodge, I think my hands completely froze. Thoughts raced through my mind of “Why the hell are you doing this, Doug? You could have stayed in the warmth and wrote the article anyways…”
But whatever, it’s good to get the full experience. I was determined to get into the mindset of a competitor, and shoot for the gold. Really, it would be fun to ride at the Masters, and everyone who was there was dealing with the same conditions. It’s a contest, and someone that day was going to walk away with four contracts and a spot on the Young Gun Masters team. So I guess you simply have to man up and deal.
Walking into registration I saw many of the guys I knew. J. Lev, Iannick, Mike Nick, Johnny A., Tim Russel, Cedric, some of the blue crew, and all my other buddies. Instantly it was handshakes and high fives all around! (Really I just sat in the corner ‘cause I don’t actually have friends, but I thought that dropping some names would make me seem cooler.)
I sat beside the registration desk for a while, trying to see what this thing was all about. Registration was set up in a line. You picked up your forms to fill out at one desk, to fill out at your leisure. This desk was manned by Tim Russell, who greeted everyone kindly, and handed them the appropriate wavers. Once you finished this, you moved onto the second zone where you gave in your forms. First you talked to Mike Nick, who checked you off the registration list, moved on to Jonny A. who gave you a number, and finally Jason Levinthal who gave you the jersey you’d put your number on. Each one of them, and for every person competing said “Hey, I’m (insert name). If you win today, I’ll be sponsoring you!” They shook each and every hand that came through, and had real sincerity in their voices. I just thought this was a wonderful thing as it puts the people behind the scenes in touch with those of us who usually wouldn’t get this chance.
After registering, getting geared up, and making the final decision to head out for training and brave the cold, we charged out the front door. Neither chairlift was running due to the fact that they were FROZEN. Apparently it was going to take some time to thaw out the chairlift mechanisim so that they could run. Yeah, it was that cold.
When the news of this was said, about half the line jumped out of the corral and began hiking the park. Probably the smartest thing to keep warm, and people just wanted this contest so badly. It’s impressive to see that kind of resolve.
After the delays, we finally started to get some training in. The course was long as hell, with tons of options. If you want exact park layout, check out the Avila park updates, as the features are all described in there. I’ll give you the quick rundown of the park though, for those who are too lazy to actually check that.
Run starts with 40’ flat box 2’ wide. Move into option between street-style 20’ roundbar on a down, or a 20’ flatbar set up flat, with a good drop to landing. Next on your right is a c-box, which you can hit after the flatbar. After that, option between Wave box and an up-down rail. There’s a FDF on the left after that, or you can hit a double takeoff table 15’/30’. The park then turns and the next two features could not be judged and were out. After the turn, it opens up into the final section. Right side there are 4 rails, 20’ flatbar, DFD box, FD box and battleship box. Left side is three jump line, clocking in at 15’-40’-35’. The run of the day was the jumpline, as I guess people always hit jumps when they’re going for the gold.
Training was rushed as always, and the contest started before I was even close to ready. However, that really is the nature of a comp, and you’re never going to have anything different. The key to being a good competitor is to be able to perform anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, and do it all with only 3 warmup runs. The real key to remember is that if you want to win, you’re not going to learn the trick that day. You have to have done the trick zillions of times, and it’s barely anything for you to do it again. I saw a fair amount of that problem throughout the day. People who had great 5’s dialed in, but in their comp run chucked 9’s just because they thought it would win. Remember, a hucked hard trick loses to a perfect easy one. I actually had a great conversation with J.Lev on the deck of the jump saying “Man I just want to see a misty/rodeo, screw spinning!”
My runs were typical Doug fashion. When the pressure is on, I crack and suck super bad. You’ve got to remember, that’s the hard part about competing…. Standing in the start gate waiting for your turn, and someone just says “GO” and BAM you’ve got to be on point. I had three good jumps in the jumpline one run, but that was about it for my day. The rest was falling and fucking up my spins onto rails. Such is life, so I moved onto being a spectator.
I will say though that the overall attitude of the contest was amazing! Unlike the USOpen, when I was in the start gate at one point trying to get my turn to go, I ended up being ready at the same time as another guy. I said “you go”, and he said “that’s all good, you go!” We went on like this until Tim just told me to get my ass moving. You really don’t see that a lot, as it was jam-format, and more runs were possible if you went faster. Friendliness… what a wonderful thing.
That’s what this contest was all about… getting a bunch of skiers together, and really just having a fun day. Sure a winner is chosen in the end, but we all were cheering each other on.
John Strenio ended up winning, and he deserved it. When finals finally happened, it was 5:00pm and it was getting really dark. John killed it all day, braved the cold and pulled it together when the chips were down. I only saw the top part of his run, as I was judging with Mike Nick, but man that guy was killing it. Yet again a Liberty rider wins, and they lose another great talent. You’ve got to really hand it to Liberty for picking some of the great up-and-coming talent. J My props of the day also go out to Antoine Gangier. His crazy style on rails, and unique way of jumping really was pleasing to watch. The un-sponsored older brother of Charles always manages to throw down something totally unique.
I was really happy with my day. I recommend checking out one of these if you have the chance. Whether you’re there to launch your pro career, or simply find out what it’s like to compete, it’s a wonderful opportunity to give it a try. I felt completely satisfied with my experience as an athlete. After doing comps for years, I’ve experienced all kinds of contests, and this was one of the best ones I’ve been in. You get a fair chance, just as much training as anyone else, you’re treated equally, everyone is friendly and the prizes are fantastic. Though I completely sucked in the contest, I walked away with a smile on my face.
This comp really fills a void in the world of skiing. Many of the comps out there are simply for the pros, and the average park skier is totally left out of the equation. I had a great conversation with J.Lev about it, and he agreed that they simply wanted to hold something with a grassroots feel to it. Think of how many contests are either just for your mountain, or are only for pros. The YGO is a wonderful middle ground, and gives those who usually wouldn’t get a break the chance at something big.
If you can make it, head out the the last stop at Stratton, you won’t be disappointed!
Get to know the freeski young gun who always has one in the chamber ready to blow minds.
Eliel Hindert is a writer, director, gun enthusiast, film school dropout, blogger, instigator, scene chronicler, backcountry bandit, and damn good skier. And heâ€™s not even a quarter century old. His latest project, Under the Weather, has had the EpicTV office snickering and wincing in equal measure. Itâ€™s also aggravated more than a few people on Facebook. Naturally, we had to meet this young man and ask him a few questions.
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