Rachael Karker is working on mastering the new modified superpipe layout. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian freestyle skier Karker excited for Dew Tour’s modified superpipe

Rachael Karker has a renewed sense of confidence heading into her second Dew Tour.

Now the Canadian halfpipe skier just has to work on mastering the event’s new modified superpipe layout. And she’s not alone in that regard.

The 21-year-old Karker has been in Breckenridge, Colo., the site of the annual event, for days testing out the brand new course, which includes uncharacteristic jump features before and after the actual pipe.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to go,” Karker said with a laugh in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. ”Right now all of us (competitors) are just trying to figure out the best way to use the features effectively.

“Going into a regular halfpipe would be a much easier way to plan a run and figure out what you’re going to do, but this is a really fun challenge and a way for us to try new things.”

Karker has been trying new things all year since her 12th-place finish in her Dew Tour debut last December.

The Erin, Ont., skier has incorporated a left cork 900 (a 900-degree off-axis spin to the left) and a right flair (a back flip with a 180-degree horizontal rotation) into her repertoire after learning both tricks this off-season.

Attempting new daring feats in the air comes a bit easier for Karker, who switched from slopestyle to halfpipe three years ago. Her background in trampoline from her younger years helps with that too.

“Having good air sense is really important in most skiing disciplines, being able to know where you are in the air, so my past in trampoline really helps,” Karker said. “I found that a lot of aerial manoeuvres weren’t that difficult for me to learn.”

The additions have already started to pay off for Karker.

By putting those tricks into a consistent run, Karker opened the season last weekend with a fourth-place finish at the World Cup in Copper Mountain. Teammate Cassie Sharpe of Comox, B.C. — the defending Olympic champion in halfpipe — earned silver.

“That gives me a lot of confidence, especially placing high among all of the people who are normally placed high up,” Karker said. “I was there with the big dogs and that does a lot for my confidence knowing I can match up to them now.”

Sharpe, who won the superpipe gold medal at the 2017 Dew Tour, is also competing in this year’s event.

Elena Gaskell of Vernon, B.C., Evan McEachran of Oakville, Ont., Alex Beaulieu-Marchand of Quebec City, Noah Bowman of Calgary, Simon D’Artois of Whistler, B.C., and Teal Harle of Campbell River, B.C. are the other skiers in either the superpipe or slopestyle competitions this weekend.

Big air Olympic champ Sebastien Toutant of l’Assomption, Que., headlines a Canadian snowboarding group that also includes Spencer O’Brien of Courtenay, B.C., and Tyler Nicholson of North Bay, Ont.

The women’s superpipe final is Friday morning while the two men’s ski slopestyle events — consisting of the jib (rail portion) and the jumps — go back-to-back on Saturday afternoon. Snowboard slopestyle is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Karker said the Dew Tour experience differs quite a bit from the more traditional World Cups or other FIS-regulated events. There’s a concert on Saturday night, two different award shows on Thursday and Friday, and a general laid-back vibe that she appreciates.

“It feels like there’s less pressure and more creativity around what you can do at the Dew Tour,” Karker said. “We get to see everybody and we all hang out.

“It’s super fun, especially with the course being different this year. You’re a lot more free to try different things that you otherwise wouldn’t haven’t done.”

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