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Local ski coach hired to lead provincial freestyle mogul squad

Jasper local Chris Peel enjoys his time as head coach of Freestyle Alberta’s mogul team on the slopes in Whistler, B.C. | Submitted photo

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With more than four decades of experience on the slopes, Jasper’s Chris Peel was recently hired by Freestyle Alberta as the mogul team’s new head coach.

Currently in Whistler, B.C., Peel and the other coaching staff are preparing the provincial team for their upcoming season.

Their training grounds are the Horstman Glacier at Blackcomb ski resort, where they use the last remaining tee bar to access the remnants of winter snow on a drastically shrinking glacier.

A water camp is also nearby with ramps for the athletes to practice some aerial maneuvers, but the majority of the training is at ski camp.

Having been on the provincial team himself during the 1994-1995 season, he moved to Jasper the following year to help get Jasper’s Freeride program off the ground.

In 1997, he began coaching with the local freestyle team that he helped found.

If you’re looking for experience in a ski coach, Peel is as qualified as they come.

He had applied for the position in the past, but his time had not yet come.

However, friends, family and colleagues suggested he apply again, and everything came together as it should.

“The timing was right and I felt really supported, and I do believe I’m one of the better mogul coaches in the province,” Peel said.

The provincial team is made up of 10 skiers, five males and five females, six of whom have come through the Jasper program, including 17-year-old local Gage LeBlanc.

When presented with the impressive fact that he has coached more than half the provincial team at one time or another prior to them joining Freestyle Alberta, Peel modestly deflected the praise. 

“That’s more the machine of Jasper, that’s not just one coach,” he said.

“It’s bigger than just one person in Jasper, and I think that’s really important to get across.”

Peel explained that Jasper’s ski program benefits from several excellent coaches, good administration and strong boards.

That being said, one wonders if there’s something in the water, or snow, that makes the freestyle program in this small mountain town so dominant in the sport.

“Having the full support of the ski hill is number one,” Peel said.

“They like us, they get us.”

Not all ski hills offer their skiers the same level of support that Marmot Basin provides to the local freestyle team, he noted.

“Number two, having some consistent, older coaches is huge because if the messaging is not proper when they’re young, the whole thing just falls apart,” Peel said.

“We’ve got a coach like Eddie Wong, who has been with the club for 18 years, who is great with kids, and he understands the message that we need, so that’s really important.”

Having performance coaches who are experienced and possess a depth of knowledge, such as Nicholas Bazin, is a significant part of Jasper’s success, he added.

According to Peel, rather than the water or snow in Jasper, it is the structure of the program and the consistency of returning coaches that has led to his and the athletes’ success.

Peel won’t be spending much time in Jasper in the coming year as he and the provincial team will have 155 face-to-face days on the snow, and then there’s the travel days along the way.

While there may be a stop for the team in Jasper during the season, most of their time will be spent in Whistler and throughout Alberta.

The current camp the team is attending is primarily focused on skiing, and acrobatics will be the focus for the remainder of the summer.

In the fall, they will head to Apex Mountain Resort in Penticton, B.C. for a jump camp, and their first event, Canadian Selections, is being held in December.

The goal of the provincial athletes, and their coaches, is to work toward making Canada’s national team.

“I came (to Whistler) three weeks ago to shadow the national team, which was a great opportunity to make sure that I’m on the same page (as them) and to spend some time with our Olympians and our world cup athletes and their coaches,” Peel said.

“Because that’s how you get better. You just surround yourself with those better than yourself.”

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