CALGARY — Darcy Sharpe says he goes to sleep feeling happy these days.
The snowboarder from Comox, B.C., won his first X Games gold medal last month in Aspen, Colo.
Sharpe vaulted from last to first on his final run of the men’s slopestyle final. He beat five-time champion and fellow Canadian Mark McMorris en route to victory.
“It gives you a lot of confidence. So much confidence just to know you can do it and you can best those big guys,” Sharpe told The Canadian Press.
“The past year, snowboarding’s level has just gotten so elevated, so intense and the tricks have gotten so big, it gives you a bit of anxiety almost to know you have to do that.
“Until you’re doing it, you kind of question if that’s a reality, a possibility. It means a lot. I didn’t see it coming, but definitely wanted it and for it to happen feels so good.”
Sharpe, 24, is among 52 Canadian snowboarders and freestyle skiers competing against the world’s best Friday to Sunday at a World Cup in Calgary.
WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park on the city’s west edge boasts the only superpipe in Canada at 6.7 metres deep and 167 metres long.
COP’s pipe was expanded to its current dimensions in 2014 and became a regular training stop for American snowboard legend Shaun White. The slopestyle course was completed last year.
Calgary secured the Canadian rights to the X Games from 2020 to 2022, but there wasn’t enough money to stage them this year. The provincial government cancelled $13.5 million in funding.
While Calgary’s “Snow Rodeo” is smaller in scope, it’s a rare World Cup that combines both freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
That confluence is usually reserved for Olympic Games, world championships and the Winter X Games.
Freestyle skiing finals in halfpipe and slopestyle are Friday and Saturday respectively. Snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Calgary’s field is a domestic and international who’s who of both sports.
The Canadian contingent includes McMorris, Olympic silver medallist Laurie Blouin of Stoneham, Que., and Quebec City freestyle bronze medallist Alex Beaulieu-Marchand.
Reigning Olympic freestyle slopestyle champions Oystein Braten of Norway and Sarah Hofflin of Switzerland, and X Games winner Colby Stevenson of the U.S. are scheduled to compete in Calgary.
Sharpe’s sister Cassie, the reigning Olympic women’s ski halfpipe champion, will not participate.
The 27-year-old hit her head Saturday while competing the Dew Tour final in Copper Mountain, Colo., but still managed to win the event.
She says she’s not experiencing concussion symptoms, but Cassie won’t have completed concussion protocols in time to compete Friday.
“Why I’m more frustrated about not doing the contest is because I feel so fine,” she said. “It sucks to miss the only Canadian event of the year, but I’ll be back for next year.”
She’ll be on hand to support her younger brother and cheer for a continuation of his X Games success.
“That kid worked so hard, he’s put in so much time and energy and devoted everything to it,” Cassie said. “To watch him win and finally get recognized for what he’s been doing for the last few years was really cool.”
Darcy Sharpe has the big air tricks required among the world’s elite, but what sets him apart in slopestyle are his creative rail skills.
He did not qualify for Canada’s Olympic snowboard team in 2018 despite earning an X Games silver medal just weeks before those games.
Max Parrot, Sebastien Toutant, Tyler Nicholson and McMorris represented Canada with Toutant, Parrot and McMorris bringing back a complete set of medals between them.
Canada is deep in men’s snowboard. Making an Olympic team requires being among the best in the world.
“Big blessing, but also sometimes a curse,” Sharpe said. “If I was from any other country, I would have been at the past two Olympics. This country is one of the hardest countries to get there alongside Norway and America.
“But also it’s inspiring. I wouldn’t be as good as I am if Mark wasn’t beside me pushing me making me feel like ‘wow, I’ve got to aspire to do that.’
“It’s not like I’m looking at it through a screen. I’m looking at it in real life. Seeing that guy every day is a major inspiration.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2020.