words by Jeff Schmuck
photos by Josh Anderson and Dan Hedekar
At the dawn of each and every spring, the bulk of the British Columbia freeski scene gathers at Hemlock Valley Resort for the province’s favorite and perhaps biggest amateur event of season, Lord of the Park.
Created four years ago by Brian Coles, the event’s goal was to bring skiers of all ages, abilities and attitudes together for a laid-back competition in a laid-back atmosphere at a middle-of-nowhere resort. The resulting good vibe at the event has been the primary reason it has grown bigger and bigger every year, with more and more kids making the pilgrimage from as far as Washington and Alberta to strut their stuff, and sponsors such as Salomon, Oakley, Bern, Theory-3, Surefoot, Powder Mountain Catskiing, Camp of Champions and NS continuously showing the love.
The last three installments of the slopestyle contest laid the foundation for what has become an eagerly anticipated event where anyone and everyone could come out and have a great time, and once the smoke had cleared and dust had settled at this year’s, it arguably continued that trend, though it was not without its hiccups.
The event unfortunately kicked off the wrong way this year with the rail section still needing to be dug out and the lone jump at the top still needing some finishing touches before things could get going, causing stress and confusion amongst many of the competitors. The resort’s winch cat was reportedly broken, and although the original jump Coles built was thought to be passable, a quick look from renowned ski filmmaker Jeff Thomas of Theory-3 Media (who needless to say, knows a thing or two about building jumps) determined otherwise. Thomas, along with Leigh Powis, Dane Tudor and the resort’s cat driver, spent the better part of the day prior to the event busting their asses to tear down, redesign and rebuild the jump in time for the event.
Joe Schuster...preparing to guinea pig
The trio made do with what they had to work with in such a short period time and built a great looking jump, but concern was amidst that the landing was a bit too short. After a two-hour delay the course was ready to go and the competitors headed up top to test the speed, and after the first few guinea pigs (including Joe & Cam Schuster, Mike Mertion and Leigh and Dane) sessioned the jump without incident, all was thought to be well.
Unfortunately, a good portion of the remaining skiers couldn’t quite figure out the speed as well as some of the big boys, and the resulting carnage ensued. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt but after way too many cased and/or overshot the landing while parents and coaches looked on in horror, the decision was made to move the event down to the rail section for a impromptu rail jam in place of the planned slopestyle format.
After some quick touch-ups on the rail take-offs to make things more interesting, everyone took a breather, re-grouped, and the contest was on again. As the 65 competitors formed a condensed and eager drop-in line, smiles returned and high-fives ensued, and the good vibe that makes Lord of the Park what it is seemingly reappeared after fear that it was perhaps lost forever over the jump debacle.
Dave Pires and Joel Bot make the calls
Everyone took turns on the metal in a relaxing and laid-back jam-style format for a little over an hour, at which point judges Joel Bot and Dave Pires cut the field down to the best of the best for the finals, which were to be held on a long down bar at the bottom of the course.
Emma Whitman...switching it up
The women were up first, and once all was said and done there was no question that Emma Whitman, who has traveled a long and injury-plagued road to becoming a rising ski star in BC, was the undeniable winner with her clean style complemented by a couple of switch-ups and 270’s out. Rounding out the top three was Jenny Strong and BC competition mainstay Nina Abramishivilli.
In the men’s am under 16 division, the grom patrol was in full effect much to the delight of cheering crowd as Cam Smith took home first with Nori Shimadate in second and Connor Warnock in third.
The men’s am over 16 division saw some serious firepower and had the judges scratching their heads in bewilderment over who to pick for the win. In the end it went to Garret Alexanderelphee (who was rocking a tall tee tied to his snowpants as they hung around his ankles…causing more than a few in the crowd to begin referring to him as Homeless Guy), who’s style could not be denied with his smooth as ice 270 on’s and switch-ups without leaving the rail. Closely behind him were renowned up-and-comers Alex Wall and Simon D’Artois.
In the pro division the heat was stacked with a who’s who list of up-and-coming and already-there professional skiers from across the province.
After a three-run showdown that turned into four because it was too close to call, the illustrious Cam Schuster emerged victorious with a flawless switch 270 on, 270 off. Rossland’s very own Colston Beatson, who will continue to be one to watch for quite some time, followed in second place with a nollie to shifty on, while everyone’s favorite Swede, Johan Kristofers, rounded out the podium in third with his usual trickery. Also worth mentioning is Alex Maier, who competed in the am over 16 division but opted to compete against the pros in the finals, and more than held his own by throwing both left and right 270 ons with mad style.
LOTP organizer Brian Coles swags out the crowd
Another Lord of the Park is now in the books, and according to Coles, unfortunately, it may be the last. Unbeknownst to many, Coles had planned for this year to be the event’s last and had hoped for it to go out on a high note. And although many seemed to have had a good time in the end, based on the controversy surrounding the beginning of the day, he may have to take one more crack at it to give his baby the proper swan song.
Men's Am Under 16:
Men's Am 16+: