Rossland freeskier Xander Bankes topped the podium at the IFSA Canadian Open FreeRide championship at Red Mountain Resort in February. Photo: submitted

Rossland freeskier Xander Bankes topped the podium at the IFSA Canadian Open FreeRide championship at Red Mountain Resort in February. Photo: submitted

Rossland freeskier qualifies for Junior World championship

Xander Bankes’ freeski results earned him a berth in the 2023 Freeride Junior World championship

Free skier Xander Bankes is heading to the 2023 Freeride Junior World Championships in Austria next season.

At just 16-years-old, the Rossland athlete finished the regular freeski season in first place overall in North America for the 15-18 year old category.

“I was really happy with the way I performed,” said Bankes. “All season was consistent, and hadn’t crashed in a competition, finishing in top-5 in all of them, up until the North American Championships.”

Bankes’ results are impressive for a skier who trains and competes independently.

The highlight of his regular season competitions appropriately occurred on his home mountain in February. After a tough first qualifying run put him in seventh, Bankes regrouped in the finals, found his line and made up enough ground to finish first at the Red Mountain Resort IFSA Nationals.

“Obviously being my home mountain, definitely has a better vibe just for myself,” said Bankes. “Winning that was a really big confidence booster. I didn’t have the best qualifying run then I had a really good finals run.”

He also topped the podium at Kicking Horse Nationals and at Big White Regionals, before earning a third-place finish at Fernie Regionals.

The final freeski stop was at the IFSA North American Junior Championships held at Big Sky Resort in Montana April 6-10. On his first run, however, Bankes hit a rock and fell while landing one of his jumps. He didn’t get the result he wanted and missed qualifying for the finals, which ended up being cancelled due to unsafe icy conditions.

“Having such a great season then going into the championships ranked number-1 overall, then having my first crash of the season was definitely disappointing,” said Bankes. “But I’m really excited about how my result ended up still even with the crash.”

Despite the result, Xander earned sixth overall in North America and third in Canada, qualifying him for the 2023 Freeride Junior World Championship.

“I’m super excited to be going, I think it’s going to be a great experience,” said Bankes. “I’ve never been skiing overseas, I’ve only heard great things about skiing there, so I’m super excited and looking forward to going.”

Typically, Bankes trains on weekends and attends school during the week. Like most downhill skiing events, freeskiing is both demanding and technical, but unlike downhill races, freeskiers choose their own course, and are judged on line choice, control, fluidity, technique and style and energy.

“It’s definitely different,” said Bankes. “Instead of having a race course or set course to go down, you just get the run and you have to pick your way down it. Then instead of being timed like a race, it’s judged by judges so it’s challenging.”

The soon to be 17 year old has two more years of freeskiing in the 15-18 category and hopes for the same great results next season.

“Next year, honestly my goals are the same,” said Bankes. “See how the first couple events go, see where it takes me, and hopefully I can re-qualify for World championships, go to Austria with an open mind and enjoy the experience.”

Now that spring is here, Bankes is back on the Maple Leaf Junior Tour (MLJT) golf circuit and has played in three tournaments already this season. He finished seventh among Junior competitors at the MLJT at the Chilliwack Golf Course, April 23-24.

Bankes also competed at the 125th Canadian Men’s Amateur Golf championship and the Canadian Junior Golf championships in August last year. He won the BC Bantam Boys Golf Championship in 2019.

Read: Rossland teen tees off at Canadian men’s golf championship

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