Though freestyle skier Riley Culver lives on Bowen, only a short distance from Whistler Mountain, he’s packing his bags and heading to the Yukon to hit the slopes.
Culver, 21, is part of the Canadian National Development Team and he is itching to get out into the snow. Riley Culver is one of Canada's top skiers, and sits at 3rd Overall in the world in the Association of Freeskiing Professionals points.Though Whistler and Blackcomb have started to turn white, there’s not enough of a base to try the tricky moves of a freestyle skier of Culver’s caliber. Culver’s his team has never gone out to the Yukon for a ski camp but he is confident it will be a good training experience specific for his freestyle team.
Skiing took Culver to France twice last season. He skis in the Rockies, as well as places in the states such as Boston. What’s important to him isn’t a huge amount of terrain. He needs a good freestyle terrain park like the one in Colorado.
Culver says he likes training in Whistler, and enjoys some off-slopes training at the trampoline gym called Bounce. “At BounceI can get 30’ in height and try tricks.”
While at home, preparing for the start of ski season, Culver has built a ramp covered in bristles off his front deck. He throws water on the ramp and snaps into his waxed skis. This serves as his launch for some smooth aerial moves that would stop a mother’s heart. He laughs that, with five older siblings, his mom “is used to it.”
The skier uses the ramp five hours a day off-season and trains at the gym daily. He says the water ramp at Whistler is built for aerialists with a steep takeoff that isn’t necessary for freestyle.
Freestyle skiers practice tricks in two to three disciplines: slopestyle, half-pipe, and big air. Slopestyle and the half-pipe were introduced as an Olympic sport in 2014. Slopestyle tricks are based on spins, grinds, grabs and flips.
Culver has been skiing since he could walk. The young athlete describes how, growing up, his family and dog rushed off to Apex Mountain every weekend then rushing back at 4:30 on Sundays to make it back on the last ferry.
He says all his siblings went through the race program at Apex but he is the only one who has continued to compete at the elite level.
Meanwhile, two other major international events have quickly become important competitive events for extreme sports like freestyle. One of those events is the XGames, and the other is Dewtour, and Culver is currently the first alternate for that competition, “Dewtour opens the door to the next level of competition for extreme sports,” says Culver. As it stands, the field of competition is slim. Canada sent one man and two women to compete freestyle at the last Olympics.
Culver says the sport is changing as the size of jumps is changing, allowing skiers to do more. “You can’t get any more speed, but the size of the jumps will keep pushing the limits of skiers.” The rest of it comes from the skiers themselves. Culver says that fear isn’t an issue for him. “I know my ability there will always be things that scare me.” He says he analyzes the fear; “Are your senses warning you or are you just scared? Then I tell myself to just man up and try it.” The athletes get some sport psychology training, but it would appear, that Culver’s got good control of the mind-set needed to keep improving. Culver will be posting pictures from the Yukon so friends can check out how things are going by finding him on Facebook or instagram @rileytculver.