The Under Armour halfpipe at WinSport is bustling with athletes from Canada, France, New Zealand, Japan, Great Britain and the United States who are training on the famous halfpipe.
World-renowned pipe cutter Frank Wells worked with WinSport’s snowmaking crews for approximately two weeks to complete the pipe just before Christmas.
Among the many athletes training here is Rosalind Groenewoud, a member of Canada’s national halfpipe ski team, who came back home to Calgary from Squamish, B.C., to continue training.
“It’s a pretty intimidating halfpipe but it’s just awesome and is the best in the world,” says Groenewoud. “Frank Wells is such an expert at building these and now he’s taught the people at WinSport how to build it, which is great.”
Groenewoud started out on WinSport’s hill at the age of three after her parents enrolled her in ski lessons. She quickly fell in love with the sport, but had to leave it soon after when her family moved to Ecuador while she was in elementary school. When she was 13-years-old, her family returned to Calgary and immediately enrolled her in freestyle skiing.
“I probably should have started with basic ski lessons, but my parents put me right into freestyle,” Groenewoud says. “I joke that I actually learned to ski on the halfpipe.”
Jumping right into freestyle was arguably a blessing in disguise, as Groenewoud excelled quickly to stardom. After making her Winter X Games debut in 2008, she finished third in both 2010 and 2011 and captured gold at the 2011 FIS World Championships and the 2012 Winter X Games. She then won silver at the 2013 and 2014 Winter X Games. She finished seventh in her Olympic debut at Sochi 2014.
She says coming back to Calgary is special not only because she gets to train on the halfpipe, but because she gets to witness the excitement amongst all the kids on the hill learning to ski.
“It’s kind of nostalgic because I remember being here with all my friends in junior high and high school, so to see their excitement is pretty special,” Groenewoud says. “We’re so fortunate to have (WinSport) for the development of athletes but it’s also a place to have a social connection where you can train and make friends at the same time.”
After training at WinSport, Groenewoud will head to Mammoth, Calif., in the first week of February for the FIS World Cup and then to Bokwang, Korea, for another FIS World Cup.