• Stuart Benson

Hills riders headed to Snowboard Cross World Juniors in Russia

Wakefield resident Griffin Mason will be travelling to Austria and Switzerland on Feb. 19 to participate in snowboard cross tournaments — in part made possible thanks to the custom run his father, Tom, built in their front yard for him to practice on during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Legally we're not allowed to train at the hills yet this season, so we brought the training centre home, explained Tom, who works as a carpenter for Wakefield Construction and took a spare storage container home from work to build the custom start section — an elevated platform from which Griffin can drop down from to gain speed at the beginning of the run.

Griffin Mason gets some early morning air with his brother on the custom snowboard cross run his dad and coach, Tom, built for him in their front yard, where Mason can practice as long as he wants without worrying about crowds or a curfew. Stuart Benson photo

“It's tough to find start-sections to train on, so this means he can come out every night for however long he wants. No curfew here,” he explained.

Tom isn’t just Griffin’s dad, he’s also his coach and a snowboarding pioneer in the area.

“I was one of the pioneers in this area as far as snowboarding. As soon as they allowed it on the ski hills I started snowboarding,” Tom explained.

“I recently made Mont Ste. Marie our home base because they allowed me to build and do my own thing,” he said, explaining that recently he and his son, and a couple of friends completed an entirely new run they had cut specifically for snowboard cross at Mont Ste. Marie ski resort, as well as officially creating Club Prestige Snowboard, which they partially had to do to qualify for the kind of insurance required to participate on Team Canada.

Snowboard cross, which became an Olympic Sport in 1998, is a competition in which four to six competitors race down a narrow course that includes various kinds of jumps, drops, berms and a mix of flat and steeper sections. It’s not uncommon for racers to crash into each other during a race, but at six-foot-four and 195 pounds, the 16-year-old Griffin describes it as a kind of excitement he can’t get anywhere else.

“It's the thrill of going down the track with other racers around you, not knowing what they're going to do,” Griffin explained. “I like to get air and go fast, so snowboard cross is the only one where you get to do both.”

In February, Griffon will compete in three Europa Cups, and in March he will travel to Russia for the World Junior Championships in snowboard cross.

Griffin will be travelling to Austria with four other snowboarders from around the Outaouais and Ottawa region, including Noah Roy from Ottawa, Tristan Bell from Aylmer and Will Scott from Val-des-Monts.

As of right now, only Griffon has enough International Ski Federation points to qualify for the World Juniors, however, many athletes including Scott, who had their previous season cut short by the COVID-19 shutdowns in March, were unable to accumulate the average 50 points required to qualify.

According to Scott, it’s possible FIS may consider the situation and lower the threshold, meaning he would have enough points to qualify for World Juniors alongside Griffon.

“It's in other people's hands at this point, but I'm really crossing my fingers,” Scott said. “I’m really crossing my fingers.”

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