Leap of faith for freestylers

Making a splash the right way was the recent off-season challenge for a group of freestyler snow skiers.

The athletes were at the Apex Freestyle Water Ramps at Covert Farms for physical conditioning and working on their jumping skills.

Constructed in 2014, the outdoor site has a pair of in-ground trampolines as well as beginner and advanced ramps that land skiers in a 1,500-square-metre irrigation reservoir.

“For the Covert family to let us use this space with this kind of facility, there’s no words to describe how lucky and how grateful we are,” said head coach and program director Rob Kober of the Apex Freestyle Club (AFC). “Without this would mean more trips to other places which would mean more expense for families and more time away from home.

“With this facility we’re well equipped to give the kids the tools they need to be successful at a higher level.”

Francesca Farcau, 12, of West Kelowna was one of the AFC members taking part in the program.

“This is really a lot of fun,” she said between leaps from the smaller ramp. “It’s pretty similar jump wise but in the winter you’re not jumping into water so it’s a little easier. It’s a lot better for learning tricks for sure.”

Her teammate Emelie McCaughey, 15, agreed, “It’s not just training, it’s fun.”

Emelie is one of the club members who has the the head coach’s eye following her efforts last season that included winning the overall BC Freestyle female athlete of the year award and a BC Winter Games medal.

“She’s really been able to up the training volume here this summer and her progress has been really good, a very steep, steady learning curve,” said Kober. “She’s made huge gains.”

Emelie comes from a skiing family, picking up the sport when she was just two years old.

“My dad got me into this,” she said with a smile. “We are a very close and it’s just like family game night except it’s all weekend.

“I also like to go to the competitions to ski with my friends from other mountains. I’ve met so many people through competitions that I would never have met before.”

What goes through her mind before making that turn and heading down the steep downhill run to the first jump?

“I guess thinking about why I got myself into this sport,” she said with a shake of her head. “Then I remember that I love skiing so much.”

The Grade 10 Pen Hi student also dedicates much of the spare time she has left to studying at Okanagan Dance Studios, having won several solo competitions since starting.

While many girls drop out of sports at her age, Emelie has no plans of quitting just yet.

“Making it to the BC team is dream one and then maybe the NextGen team which is just below the Olympics,” she said. “Also if I keep skiing I think younger girls will want to stay in the sport too.”

Emelie and the rest of the AFC members will be back on the snow slopes for training and competition in late fall and winter.


Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Penticton Herald