Calgary moguls to open the New Year for Freestyle World Cup

CALGARY, CAN - The first FIS Freestyle event of 2015 gets underway on Saturday morning (MST) with World Cup moguls qualifications and finals in Calgary, Canada.

Calgary's Canada Olympic Park (COP) has been a host venue on the World Cup tour dating all the way back to 1987, when it held test events ahead of the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games. Located about 25 minutes from downtown Calgary, COP boast a full range of Freestyle facilities mere kilometers from one of Canada's most booming metropolises.

Five of the six Sochi 2014 moguls medalists claimed podiums at last season's Calgary event, with Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) scoring her first win of 2013/14 on the COP slope, followed by Hannah Kearney (USA) and middle Dufour-Lapointe sister Chloe. On the men's side, it was Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) taking the second of what would become five 2013/14 wins, followed by teammate Alex Bilodeau and Patrick Deneen (USA). Sochi men's bronze medalist Alexandr Smyshlyaev (RUS), came fourth.

Just over two weeks ago, at the first moguls World Cup of the 2014/15 season in Ruka, Finland, we saw sophomore World Cup winners on both the ladies' and men's side, as Yulia Galysheva (KAZ) and Philippe Marquis (CAN) rose to the occasion in a dual moguls competition that saw some of the traditional favourites bow out in the intense head-to-head skiing.

Last season's fifth-ranked mogulist, Galysheva was able to edge 2013/14 moguls and freestyle overall crystal globe winner Kearney in her semifinal heat before taking down Chloe Dufour-Lapointe on her way to an impressive early-season win.

While Dufour-Lapointe and Kearney settled for second and third, respectively, it was somewhat surprising to see Sochi gold medallist Justine bounced by teammate Audrey Robichaud (CAN) in their quarter final heat, relegating Justine to a fifth place finish.

On the men's side there were some even bigger surprises in Ruka, as, first, last year's third-ranked moguls skier Deneen lost in his round of 32 heat, and then was quickly followed out by the typically indomitable Kingsbury in the round of 16.

On his way to victory, Marquis was able to take out Smyshlyaev and upstart Thomas Rowley (USA), before edging Endo in a hotly contested dual that saw the Canadian actually finish in a slower time than the Japanese skier, but take the win based on fractionally better judges scores.

Ladies' qualifications in Calgary begin at 10:15 local time, followed by the men at 12:15. Finals for the top 16 men and ladies will begin at 14:00.

Bellemare and McEachran Wrap Up Dew Tour in Slopestyle Final

Breckenridge, CO - The 2014 Dew Tour came to a wrap today in Breckenridge, Colorado with the conclusion of the men's slopestyle final on a challenging course filled with fresh snow.

Canadians Alex Bellemare (St-Boniface, QC) and Evan McEachran (Oakville, ON) competed finishing in sixth and 12th place respectively.

Bellemare, 21, finished the two-run final with a high score of 78.50 secured on his first attempt and had him in second place at the midway point. His second run looked clean right until his final hit where he lost control to score 30.50.

"It was kind of a harsh day with all the snow," said Bellemare. "It was very hard to clear the jumps. We switched our runs trying to figure it out. It definitely wasn't an easy day."

McEachran had a tougher go on the course today crashing on both his runs for scores of 18.75 and 22.00 respectively.

"It was kind of a bummer we didn't have the best speed," said McEachran. "The weather has been perfect our entire trip until now. Unfortunately it didn't work out for me and I didn't have speed on both runs and came up short on the second jump. It makes me more hungry for next time."

Both slopestyle skiers qualified directly into the final by placing in fourth (Bellemare) and ninth (McEachran) respectively.

For a young skier like McEachran, only 17, the opportunity to compete against world-class athletes is important for his development.

"This year the focus is different for us," said David Mirota, High Performance Director. "We have a lot of rookies on the team and young guys like Evan McEachran. I'm really happy with where the whole team is at in terms of new skills and progressing longer term focus."

The next major competition for the slopestyle team will be in January with the FIS World Championship in Kreischberg, Austria (January 14-22) and the X Games in Aspen, Colorado (Jan 20-25)

"I got the first run invite about 2-3 weeks ago," said McEachran. "I'm really excited about that. It's definitely a dream come true."

"Our peak events are the X Games and the World Championship this year," added Mirota. "We have a camp scheduled in January in Calgary with WinSport and it'll be a key preparation for those dates. I'm excited about the depth of our team with the youngsters and veterans. We have a lot of experience. It's looking good."

Alex Bilodeau Awarded 2014 Air Canada Athlete of the Year

VANCOUVER - Air Canada announced today that Canadians chose retired freestyle skier, Alex Bilodeau, as the 2014 Air Canada Athlete of the Year Award winner. The 2014 Olympic moguls gold medallist had an exemplary career including two Olympic gold medals and three World Championships.

"On behalf of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, I would like to sincerely congratulate Alex Bilodeau on receiving the 2014 Air Canada Athlete of the Year Award. Alex's achievements in freestyle skiing are world-class. From being the first Canadian athlete to win Olympic gold on home soil in 2010 to repeating as gold medal champion in 2014, Alex provided Canadians with memories for a lifetime. Alex always wanted to be the best and he displayed the skill and determination to achieve it. It is fitting that he ends his career with this prestigious award."

Riddle Starts Season with Top-10 Finish

Copper Mountain, CO - In the first FIS World Cup of the season, Olympic silver medallist Mike Riddle battled through some new runs and consistency issues to finish 10th overall.

Coming off of a strong season, Riddle has incorporated several new tricks and a higher degree of difficulty to further standout from his peers. However, issues including a broken ski on his first run prevented him from testing his full potential at the Copper Mountain, CO event.

"The good news is that I'm working on some stuff that I'm excited for in the next coming event," said Riddle. "There's definitely a couple cobwebs in the system to work through and hopefully that will lead to some success in the next couple of weeks. I didn't put down a run even remotely close to what I'm capable of.

Athletes are continuously evolving and trying new tricks in a sport that requires it to stay ahead.

"We're trying to really focus on the long-term right now," said Trennon Paynter, head coach, Canadian Ski Halfpipe Team. "You can still perform what you already know how to do really well and at the moment. However, we see the rate of progression in the sport and what you will need in a couple of years (to podium) will be different. We're putting our focus in building a lot of new skills to pay off in the long run."

Riddle and the rest of the halfpipe team will get an opportunity to shake off this World Cup as early as next week when they head to Breckenridge, CO for the Dew Tour from December 11-14.

There, Riddle will look to continue to evolve his skiing in his attempt to make it to the top of his sport.

"I don't want to sit and stay where I am," said Riddle. "I want to get my run to the next level so that I am the guy to beat. I'm looking forward to putting together new tricks and new combos that haven't been done. We're going to try again next week at Dew Tour."