Whistler and Squamish will be represented by 16 young freestyle skiers at the BC Winter Games this week from March 23 to 26 in Vernon.
Freestyle Whistler has been on quite the roll lately, with athletes like Jordan Peet, Maya Mikkelsen, Lynnette Conn, Jessica Linton and Sam Cordell bringing home multiple medals from the Canada Winter Games and the Nor-Am circuit. In fact, the BC Winter Games are accepting up to 20 freestylers from the coastal region this year, and the top 16 are all members of Freestyle Whistler.
Two of those contenders are Ty Reichert and Jacob Martin, who will be joining several of their peers at Silver Star Mountain Resort.
Both 13 years old, Reichert and Martin have skied for essentially their whole lives. They are relatively new to the competitive scene, however, having picked up freestyle in 2022, yet their burgeoning talents have already translated to three medals apiece in various youth events.
One of Reichert and Martin’s early-career highlights came last April in Whistler. They, along with their close friend Nelson Beyriesmith, swept the podium at a big air contest on the youth-focused Timber Tour.
“That was one of the most exciting parts of my life,” beamed Martin. “I love slopestyle and big air. They’re my favourite things to do in freestyle.”
Reichert, Martin and Beyriesmith—who call themselves the Burrito Boys—are just three of many who benefit from training in one of the world’s ski meccas. Whistler Blackcomb offers an incredible array of terrain, and Freestyle Whistler is one of the only clubs in Canada to have an airbag: a 50-by-50-foot inflatable landing pad that allows youth to master new tricks in relative safety before attempting them on snow.
“As well, we’ve got a world-class moguls course and our own private rail garden outside of the terrain park on Blackcomb, so our athletes don’t have to deal with the members of the public going by,” said Chris Muir, executive director of Freestyle Whistler. “Our coaches are fantastic too, but I think the facilities have been top-notch in terms of allowing athletes to develop those skills.”
Don’t underestimate them simply because they are young—Reichert and Martin are dedicated to their sport. They already have an impressive toolbox of moves, including rail tricks, flips and off-axis rotations (or “corks”). Both are disciplined about their schoolwork, keeping their grades up even as they discover ways to fly higher and further.
“I had no idea that my son [would come to love freestyle],” said Stephen Reichert, Ty’s father. “Ty lost his very first tooth on Whistler Mountain and he’s always wanted to go really fast, really high and do jumps. As a parent, it’s scary watching Ty and Jacob do this, but at the same time, they seem to be living their dream.”
Now, the boys are excited to showcase their skills on a provincial stage.
“There’s so many new opportunities and so many people to meet [at the BC Winter Games],” Martin said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, just all around a great time.”
“I’m really excited because it’s the first time I’ll be independent for a competition,” added Reichert. “We get to take a team bus there and our parents aren’t there [in the athletes’ village], so I have to be responsible in that way.”
His dad agrees. “I think it’s a really good opportunity to grow as a person,” Stephen said. “Watching my son progress has just been really inspiring. Ty doesn’t go to school on Fridays [because] he trains, but he has to manage school in order to do that, so that adds responsibility. In the long run, it creates a much stronger human being.”
As a director, Muir has seen waves of talented athletes pass through the doors of his club. There was Dale Begg-Smith, a two-time Olympic medallist who grew up in Whistler despite representing Australia in his career. Simon d’Artois, the six-time World Cup medallist and one-time X Games king, is still going strong. Then you have Maia Schwinghammer, a 21-year-old who managed a pair of top-10 results (including fifth in single moguls) at February’s World Championships.
Muir knows his current athletes have similarly lofty aspirations for themselves. He hopes that the upcoming BC Winter Games will provide them with valuable experience that helps launch them to the next level.
For their part, Reichert and Martin hope to go where some of their older peers already have.
“It’s crazy how much people can progress with skiing,” said Martin. “It’s pretty inspiring how people [like Mikkelsen and Cordell] are already at that level.”
Other Freestyle Whistler athletes going to Silver Star include Jude Oliver, Saxon Berry, Armaan Asrar Haghighi, Eli Krumme, Mavik Mackinnon and Yamato Buhler, among the boys. The girls will be represented by Sylvia Trotter, Zoe Henderson, Sage Booth, Emma Horn, Mike Simonsen, Sierra Grant-Lavergne, Ellysaiya Haddad and Sylvie Lawrie-Lie.