Mikael Kingsbury races over mogulsTHE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Skiing and snowboarding towards Beijing 2022: What to watch in three snow sports

From high-speed thrills to impressive air skills, there is something for everyone to be amazed at in the sports and events that take place on snow.

Team Canada has a lot of talent in alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, and snowboard you’ll want to keep on an eye as you cheer them on during the last few months on the road to Beijing 2022.

Alpine Skiing

Olympic Qualification Status

The Olympic qualification window will close on January 16, 2022, taking into account results achieved since July 1, 2019. NOCs will then learn how many athletes they are eligible to send to Beijing, up to a maximum of 11 men and 11 women, with a maximum of four entries per event.

Team Canada Athletes to Watch

Erik Read mid-competition in the giant slalom at PyeongChang 2018. He is wearing a red, orange and white suit, and a chrome yellow helmet with matching goggles.
Canada’s Erik Read competes in the men’s giant slalom at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Korea, Sunday, February 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO – COC – Jason Ransom

Canada had two near podium finishes at the 2021 FIS World Championships. Jack Crawford finished fourth in the men’s alpine combined while Brodie Seger was fourth in the men’s super-G. In the technical events, Erik Read posted two top-10 giant slalom finishes on the World Cup circuit last season.

Marie-Michèle Gagnon is coming off her best season since missing all of 2017-18 with a knee injury, highlighted by a sixth-place finish in the super-G at the 2021 Worlds and her first World Cup podium since 2016, also in the super-G.

Valérie Grenier continues her comeback after missing the 2019-20 season due to a broken leg sustained in training at the 2019 World Championships. Laurence St-Germain continues to progress as a slalom specialist while last season Erin Mielzynski posted her first top-five World Cup slalom result in two years.

Schedule Highlights

The FIS Alpine World Cup circuit, dubbed the “White Circus”, will travel through Europe from late October to late March, with a couple of stops in North America in November and December.

After being cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Cup returns to Lake Louise, Alberta for the first speed events – downhill and super-G – of the season. The men will be in town the last week of November before the women move in for the first week of December.

Marie-Michele Gagnon celebrating
Canada’s Marie-Michele Gagnon reacts after completing an alpine ski, women’s World Cup super-G race in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

READ: 2021-22 Winter Sport Competitions in Canada

The FIS Alpine World Cup season starts October 23-24 with the traditional giant slalom opener in Soelden, Austria. Then there are a couple of weeks before the competition schedule kicks into high gear in mid-November with races every weekend until the end of January when there is a break for the Olympic Games. But at the end of February, the tour continues, culminating in the World Cup Finals in Courcheval/Meribel, France, taking place March 14-20.

Freestyle Skiing

Olympic Qualification Status

The Olympic qualification window will close on January 16, 2022. It will take into account results dating back to July 1, 2019 for halfpipe, slopestyle and big air and back to July 1, 2020 for aerials, moguls and ski cross. NOCs will then learn how many athletes they can send to Beijing, up to a maximum of 16 men and 16 women, with a maximum of four entries per event.

Team Canada Athletes to Watch

Kingsbury smiles at the camera after winning.
Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury celebrates his victory at the FIS Freestyle Ski moguls World Cup in Mont Tremblant, Que. on Saturday, January 26, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)

For the first time since 2011, the GOAT of moguls, Mikaël Kingsbury, was not the Crystal Globe winner in freestyle skiing last year. But that was a result of him being injured ahead of the season-opening event, which kept him from competing until the last World Cup of the season and then the world championships. But there was certainly no rust when the reigning Olympic champion returned as he won the moguls and dual moguls gold medals in his only four races of the season.

Marion Thénault was the FIS Freestyle Rookie of the Year in aerials last season after finishing third in the World Cup standings on the strength of her first two World Cup podiums, including her first victory. Lewis Irving had three World Cup podiums of his own in men’s aerials.

Freestyle skiier flips in the air
Cassie Sharpe, of Canada, competes during the qualifications for women’s halfpipe skiing world championship Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Simon d’Artois and Rachael Karker were both silver medallists in halfpipe at the 2021 World Championships. At the X Games in Aspen, Karker shared the podium with 2018 Olympic champion Cassie Sharpe, giving Canada a strong 1-2 punch in women’s halfpipe.  

When ski big air makes its Olympic debut in Beijing, Canada will have a few medal contenders, including Megan Oldham, who won silver at the X Games where she also captured bronze in slopestyle. She went on to win slopestyle bronze at the world championships where Édouard Theriault won silver in the men’s big air. In men’s slopestyle, Evan McEachran won bronze at the X Games. Olympic slopestyle bronze medallist Alex Beaulieu-Marchand has also shown to be a consistent podium threat in both events.

In ski cross, Reece Howden was the breakout star of last season, winning the men’s Crystal Globe thanks to his six podium finishes, including four victories. Reigning Olympic champion Brady Leman is coming off a challenging season in which he returned from several injuries after an off-season mountain bike crash only to have to end his season early when he sustained a knee injury during a race.

Reece Howden holds up his Crystal Globe in his left hand and his skis in the other.
Reece Howden holds up his Crystal Globe in his left hand and his skis in the other, on Sunday March 23, 2021 in Veysonnaz, Switzerland. (Credit: GEPA pictures/Matic Klansek)

Canada has won all three Olympic gold medals awarded so far in women’s ski cross. Among those aiming to keep that streak alive are 2014 Olympic champion Marielle Thompson and 2018 Olympic silver medallist Brittany Phelan. This fall, both are coming back from injuries. Thompson needed to get her knee fixed up in March after she finished third in the overall World Cup standings while Phelan missed all of last season as she rehabbed from surgery to repair multiple ligament tears in her left knee.

Schedule Highlights

A big air event in Chur, Switzerland will kick off the FIS Freestyle World Cup schedule on October 22. The first of six slopestyle events will be November 19-20 in Stubai, Austria. Ski cross will get underway November 25-27 in Secret Garden, China, the first of nine World Cup stops in that discipline. That will be followed by the traditional opener for moguls and aerials in Ruka, Finland, December 2-4, which have nine and seven stops this season, respectively. The first of three halfpipe World Cups will be in early December in Copper Mountain, Colorado.

There are four World Cups planned to take place in Canada. A halfpipe World Cup is on for December 30-January 1 in Calgary. The aerialists will compete in Le Relais near Quebec City on January 5. Tremblant will host the moguls skiers on January 7-8. Ski cross will be on tap for Nakiska, January 13-15.

Also keep an eye on the X Games in Aspen, taking place January 21-23, for invited athletes in slopestyle, big air, and halfpipe.


Olympic Qualification Status

The Olympic qualification window will close on January 16, 2022. It will take into account results dating back to July 1, 2019 for halfpipe, slopestyle, big air and snowboard cross and back to July 1, 2020 for parallel giant slalom. NOCs will then learn how many athletes they can send to Beijing, up to a maximum of 14 men and 14 women but no more than 26 total athletes, with a maximum of four entries per event.

Team Canada Athletes to Watch

Laurie Blouin holds up her medal and hugs her snowboard at the X Games.
Aspen, CO – January 29, 2021 – Buttermilk Mountain: Laurie Blouin at the medal ceremony for Jeep Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle during X Games Aspen 2021 (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

Five Canadian snowboarders won world championship medals in 2021. Canada swept the big air gold medals thanks to Laurie Blouin in the women’s event and Mark McMorris in the men’s event. That was the second world title of Blouin’s career, who had been slopestyle world champion in 2017, the year before she won slopestyle silver at PyeongChang 2018. Another highlight of 2021 for Blouin was her slopestyle bronze at the X Games in Aspen.

McMorris shared the podium with teammate Max Parrot, who was the big air runner up. They memorably stood on the podium together at PyeongChang 2018 where they won bronze and silver, respectively, in the slopestyle event.

Mark McMorris (lef) holds up the Canadian flag behind him with Max Parrot.
Bronze medalist Mark McMorris of Canada, left, and silver medalist Max Parrot of Canada celebrate following the men’s snowboard slopestyle final at the Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Meanwhile, the first Olympic champion in men’s big air, Sébastien Toutant, earned himself his first career world championship medal when he won slopestyle silver. At just 19, Eliot Grondin claimed world championship bronze in snowboard cross. He also finished second overall in the World Cup standings, the youngest Canadian to stand on the year-end podium in snowboard cross.

Schedule Highlights

The FIS Snowboard World Cup season kicks off October 23 with a big air event in Switzerland, but the schedule becomes a lot busier starting at the end of November when the first snowboard cross event takes place in Secret Garden, China. That is the first of eight World Cup stops planned for snowboard cross. Alpine snowboarders will see their first action in early December with the first of six PGS stops on the schedule. There are three halfpipe World Cups, all in December and January.

Eliot Grondin competes in action during the Snowboard Men's SBX at PyeongChang 2018 Olympics on February 15.
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – FEBRUARY 15: Eliot Grondin in action during the Snowboard – Men’s SBX at the Phoenix Snow Park on February 15, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-COC/Vincent Ethier

There are two Canadian World Cup events this season: a slopestyle World Cup in Calgary (December 29-January 2) and a snowboard cross World Cup in Le Massif (January 27-29).

For the park and pipe riders, two of the biggest invitational events will be the Dew Tour in Copper Mountain, Colorado (December 16-19) and the X Games in Aspen, Colorado (January 21-23).