France flipping his way into slopestyle event

Grade 12 Warren Collegiate Institute student Asa France practises a trick during a training session at the Springhill Winter Sports Park in Oakbank on Feb. 10. The freestyle skier will be representing Manitoba in the men’s slopestyle event at the upcoming Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta. Nathan Liewicki / Stonewall Argus & Teulon Times

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OAKBANK — Warren’s top multi-sport athletes is hoping to land some high-flying tricks at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.

Asa France, 17, is one of several Interlake-area athletes heading west to represent Manitoba at the two-week long competition, which runs from Feb. 15 to March 3, and he’s stoked about it.

“It’s going to be awesome just representing the province,” France told The Stonewall Argus & Teulon Times while practising for the Games at the Sprinhill Winter Sports Park in Oakbank. “It’ll be really exciting.”

The five-foot-eight freestyle skier is one of four Manitobans who will be competing in the men’s slopestyle event at Canyon Ski Resort on Feb. 20.

France has always loved skiing. He was a downhill skier and raced competitively while living in Rossburn after his family came to Canada from Manchester, England when he was nine-years-old. He spent many weekends hitting the slopes at the Asessippi Ski Area & Resort near Russell, and that parlayed into hitting jumps on the hill — only five years ago.

His family moved to Warren four years ago and France joined the Winnipeg Freeriders, a freestyle skiing team, with the sport garnering more of his interest.

France has been heavily involved in high school athletics with the Warren Wildcats, playing volleyball, basketball, badminton, soccer, and track and field (long jump, triple jump and 400-metre sprinting), but it’s slopestyle, which made its Olympic debut in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, that has him thinking big.

“I want to go to the mountains and try and get a job out there working the ski hill, maybe — at (Banff) Sunshine,” France said of his future plans.

In the meantime, however, he is focused on putting together a good performance at the Canada Games, hoping to build off the experience he gained competing at last year’s junior national freestlye skiing championships in Moonstone, Ont. France finished 21st and has already qualified for 2019 nationals, which are being held in Calgary in March.

“I was really nervous but I got a lot of experience out of it and it was very fun,” he recalled.

Multi-sport athlete Asa France will be representing Manitoba in freestyle skiing’s slopestyle event at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta. Nathan Liewicki / Stonewall Argus & Teulon Times

Each slopestyle competitor gets two qualifying runs on a course that will likely have a combination of five jumps and rails, with the top skiers (usually 20 to 25%) earning a spot in the final.

“Each course is a little different, different size and different kinds of features,” Manitoba slopestyle head coach Keegan Jackson said. “It’s a game-time decision when we get there and figure out what everyone is doing and what tricks will fit that specific run, which is why slopestyle is so cool because every time we go somewhere it’s something new.”

France’s expectations are simple.

“I’m just hoping to get a great experience out of it,” he said. “We are up against a lot of tough ski provinces like Quebec and B.C.”

France’s best trick is a corked 720 off-axis, but there’s a chance he might try to land a corked 900 off-axis, which would give him a greater opportunity to qualify for the final.