Spring temperatures and prime snow conditions at Searchmont Resort provided a perfect canvas for local freestyle skiers and snowboarders who participated in the Searchmont & Area Freestyle Alliance (SAFA) Slopestyle Competition on Saturday.
Twenty participants aged 8-28 from Sault Ste. Marie, Wawa and Grayling were tasked with showcasing technique, balance and personal style on a smorgasbord of features embedded in the snow. Designed by local skier and freestyle pioneer Jake Trumble, the course consists of jumps, rails and boxes of varying shapes, sizes, lengths and steepness. Participants were judged on specific stations and their overall run.
“Searchmont staff and SAFA representatives are excited to host the slopestyle event. This opportunity provides the freestyle community to collaborate, compete and engage with their peers in a controlled course. Local riders are stoked, the Park is in great shape and we look forward to watching the amazing runs from these exceptional athletes,” remarked Colin Wilson, Searchmont Resort’s General Manager.
For the men’s open snowboarding category, Marc Gratton stole the show and took first place. In second was Bryan Warick, with Grayling Michigan’s Hunter Ventline capturing third position.
In the snowboard category for children aged 12 and up, Wyatt Betty topped the podium. Bryce Harrington swiped second spot, and Nathan Grandinetti rounded off the podium in third.
For snowboarders under 12, Carter Ianni flew into first place. Mitchell Hooey took second, and Lucas Marano snuck into third.
On the women’s side, lone rider Michelle Jennings finished first.
The skiers’ competition was dominated by Preston Copper-Guy, who topped the mens 16 and up division. In second was Maverick Robinson.
For the skiers under 15, Connor Rosso dominated the competition over Julian Seivers and Kieran Rosso, who were second and third, respectively.
“Our intent is to be able to help the kids learn and progress in their freestyle fields and division. We don’t have as much access to freestyle competition in Northern Ontario,” noted Carole Stubinsky, SAFA event organizer. Stubinsky has been organizing and promoting the club since its inception in 2006 and volunteered her time to advance the sport in the region.
Meanwhile beside the course, skiers and riders were able to push their limits on a specialized jump which featured an airbag landing area. Facilitated by Claudia and Tom Hutchinson, owners and operators of Hutch Ski/Snowboard Academy, the air bag provides a safe landing zone for aspiring freestyle riders to practice new skills.
“Tom and Claudia Hutchinson are a welcomed addition to the Searchmont Team. We are very lucky to have them at our resort as they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience at the workshops they provide,” said Wilson. “The freestyle community is stoked to push their limits on this device.”
For the last four years, Claudia and her husband Tom, a former Olympic coach have been providing the airbag along with coaching services for aspiring athletes. Originally it was only open to their camp participants, but two years ago they decided to allow public use of the feature.
“More and more people have been inquiring about the air bag ever since [it was open to public],” said Claudia, who can often be found performing flips and spins in between sessions. “One girl started and she was terrified. She ended up being able to do a backside 180 with a tail grab. Last time, she couldn’t do what she just did. It’s amazing.”
The airbag is a huge attraction for locals as well as riders from out of town. Michigan resident Chad Ventline brought his son Hunter for training with the Hutchinsons. “It’s beautiful,” Said Ventline in regard to Searchmont Resort. “I used to come here as a kid; I haven’t been here for years and it’s nice to be back.”
The next SAFA event will be a Big Air competition held at Searchmont on Saturday, March 12th at 1pm . The event is open to all ticket holders with a valid lift ticket and helmet. Registration is $20 and can be done in the lodge up until 12pm. For more information, contact Carole Stubinsky at 705-777-2984.