GNAR skier places first at North American championships

Before each competition, Aziza Rubenstein goes through a few pregame rituals.

Under her breath, she’s rapping as quickly as she can, to get her mind focused and the blood pumping through her body. At the beginning of April, she found herself on top of Gun Tower, ready to drop into Feuz Bowl at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort for the North American Junior Freeride Championships (NAJFC).

Rubenstein has only been competitively freeskiing for two years, but she has been racing for four. At 11 years old, she’s already jumping from cliffs and throwing down 360’s.

Each time she competes, she wants to do better and go harder. This attitude won her first place in the Female Ski U12 NAJFC at Kicking Horse on April 8.

“I was so surprised to qualify, and I was surprised to get first (place) because there were some amazing lines,” Rubenstein said.

When competing on your home turf, skiers have a small advantage: They know the terrain, and have help from friends and family to choose the best lines.

Thanks to Rubenstein’s friend Emily Lesser, the two were able to come up with the best way down, hitting all the features on the way.

But the hometown advantage will only get you so far. Rubenstein said she could tell there was tough competition, and she was a bit nervous going up against so many skilled athletes.

“I was super nervous watching all the girls compete, it was scary,” she said. “It was really cool to watch.”

The competition days began early. At 7:30 a.m., all of the competitors gathered at the base for a meeting before heading up the gondola. Then, they checked out the run, made any adjustments needed to their game plan, and skied back down to the bottom before heading up again to wait their turn at the starting gate.

“Every time I always think I am going to crash, or catch an edge, or mess up,” she said about her feelings before competing.

But once she gets going, it’s like she has skied it all before, and it comes back to her. After making their way down the slope, the skiers and snowboarders waited all day before finding out their results.

This left a lot of time for Rubenstein to think about her run on competition day, but being surrounded by so many friendly skiers and snowboarders made it a lot easier.

“Everyone just thinks it’s for fun and to do some cool stuff,” she said.

Rubenstein is part of the Golden Nordic Alpine Rippers (GNAR), and was joined in competition by Mae Cooper in the Ski Female U12, who placed 11th out of 21 competitors, and Ryder Dechka (third), Morgan Metcalfe (fifth), John Vankka (14th), and Cruz Dechka (17th) in the Ski Male U12 category, which had 34 competitors.

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