MAMMOTH, CA Canadian halfpipe and slopestyle athletes are on their way to Mammoth, California for their first event of 2016. The 2016 Visa U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain Halfpipe and Slopestyle competitions will be held as a FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup and Association of Freeskiing Professional Platinum Level events.

A total of 15 Canadian Freestyle Ski Team members will be competing in the four-day event scheduled between January 21-25. The event serves as a great tune-up for many of the athletes competing at the X Games later this month in Aspen.

Halfpipe athletes open the Grand Prix with qualifications beginning on Thursday. The team is coming off of a training camp at Winsport Canada’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary where they were able to ski at one of the most impressive pipes around the world.

“Having access to the facilities at Winsport was a real game changer for us,” said Cassie Sharpe. “Training close to home is really awesome. There was a lot of focus on perfecting my run, including workings on things like amplitude and grabs. All the things the judges look for in the ‘perfect’ run. Leading up to my first X Games, I’m really just trying to land everything clean and have as much fun doing it as possible.”

The pipe at Canada Olympic Park received rave reviews from the athletes training there this month.

“The beautiful, perfect, well-lit halfpipe in Calgary (along with the team coaches, physiotherapist, ski tech, strength trainer and access to a great gym) made me really stoked to ski halfpipe every single day,” said Roz Groenewoud. “I want to continue to rekindle my joy and passion for freeskiing and competing halfpipe. My goal will be to just ski the best I can each day in Mammoth, experience some progress in my skiing, feel the joy of flying, and enjoy competing with the awesome women of halfpipe skiing. “

Many of the slopestyle skiers spent their time between Calgary and Whistler fine tuning their runs and working on new tricks.

“We just got back from with Whistler and it has been absolutely fantastic this week,” said Alex Bellemare.”As always, my big focus during training has been making sure all my jumps are clean and solid with grabs. Mammoth will be a great preparation event for many of us before the X Games. I want to be happy with my runs and see what they’re scored at.”

Last year’s event was an abbreviated one due to poor weather conditions. The finals were cancelled due to heavy snowfall. Athletes were only able to compete during qualifiers with the top score being awarded the win. Justin Dorey was crowned champion in 2015, but will be unable to compete this year due to injury.

Also not competing this week and nursing injuries are Mike Riddle, Simon d’Artois, Kaya Turski and Alex Beaulieu-Marchand.

A full schedule for halfpipe and slopestyle competitions is available for download.

The following athletes are expected to compete in Mammoth.

Men: Kris Atkinson (Calgary, AB), Noah Bowman (Calgary, AB),
Ladies: Roz Groenewoud (Calgary, AB), Cassie Sharpe (Comox, BC)

Men: Alex Bellemare (Saint-Boniface, QC), Teal Harle (Campbell River, BC), Evan McEachran (Oakville, ON), Riley Culver (Bowen Island, BC), Noah Morrison (Vernon, BC), Brenden Reid (Abbotsford, BC), Taylor Wilson (Whistler, BC)
Women: Nikki Blackall (Barrie, ON), Dara Howell (Huntsville, ON), Kim Lamarre (Lac-Beauport, QC), Yuki Tsubota (Whistler, BC)