A Rossland freeride skier will make his debut on the world stage this week.
Xander Bankes, 17, will compete in the 2023 Freeride Junior World Championships (FJWC) in Austria from Jan. 23-26.
Bankes qualified for the event last year after finishing sixth overall in North America and second in Canada after finishing in the top-5 of all Canadian events.
He topped the podium at Red Mountain, Kicking Horse and Big White, and will join three other Canadian riders at the event.
“Just making it here is huge,” said Bankes in an email to the Rossland News. “I was really proud of my results last year, and that is what got me here.”
The FJWC event is being hosted in the Austrian Tyrol town of Kappl for the 10th time. The towering Tyrolian Alps provide the perfect location with plentiful snow, and steep and challenging terrain for epic runs.
The most talented freeriders of the new generation will compete in four categories: Ski Men, Ski Women, Snowboard Men, and Snowboard Women.
Despite the intimidating course and deep field, Bankes, who trains independently, says he is prepared and ready to do his best.
“I have been working out regularly to make sure I am fit and strong,” he said. “I have been competing in Freeride for a while now, so mentally I am ready. It is just a bigger mountain so I have to psyche myself up for that.”
Freeriders between the ages of 15 and 18 from 15 nations will compete. As one of just four Canadians, Bankes said, “I am really proud and excited to share the experience with them.”
Freeride skiing is both demanding and technical, and is unique in that skiers choose their own course, and are judged on line choice, control, fluidity, technique and style and energy.
“I want a clean run and ski smooth. I hope my run reflects what I am capable of,” said Bankes.
Bankes mom, Fiona Martin, accompanied Xander to Austria to watch him compete against the world’s best.
“As parents this is really the ultimate experience!” said Martin. “We have put in a lot of time and energy over the years to help Xander get to this point.
“But Xander is also highly motivated, lives the sport and has worked hard to get to this point, so it is a great reward for all of us!”
On Sunday, Jan. 22, competitors were able to do the face inspection, a visual only look at the venue.
The competition is scheduled to run Tuesday (Jan. 24) morning at 9 a.m. (1 a.m. PT), depending on conditions.
The race can be live streamed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEmY-6ZLsq8.