CALGARY — Brooke D'Hondt has dropped into Calgary's halfpipe a 10-minute drive from home more times than she can count, but the snowboarder will compete in her first World Cup there starting Thursday.
The youngest member of Canada's 2022 Olympic team in Beijing became serious about snowboarding around the same time WinSport built a superpipe in 2014.
"I would have been eight or nine. It's a little nostalgic for me to be back competing here where my halfpipe career started," D'Hondt told The Canadian Press.
"I definitely would not have competed at the Olympics if it wasn't for having that pipe in my backyard. I think it kind of set me on the path to go to the Games at 16 years old."
D'Hondt reached the final to finish 10th in her Olympic debut a year ago.
Now 17, she's coming off the best World Cup result of her career last week in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where D'Hondt placed fifth.
She landed a frontside 900 — two and a half spins — for the first time in her career.
"That was a goal of mine to put that in my run this year," D'Hondt said. "I think the Olympics kind of showed me what's possible for my snowboard career."
Calgary's snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle "Snow Rodeo" at WinSport follows Edmonton's big air Dec. 10 at Commonwealth Stadium as this season's Canadian stops on the World Cup snowboard circuit.
Halfpipe qualifying Thursday is followed by Friday night's final under the lights to conclude the World Cup season in that discipline.
Men's slopestyle qualifying is Friday, followed by the women's Saturday and Sunday's final in the penultimate World Cup of the slopestyle season ending March 24-26 in Silvaplana, Switzerland.
Winter X Games slopestyle champion Mark McMorris of Regina is expected to compete on Calgary's hill where he learned to snowboard.
D'Hondt's teammate Elizabeth Hosking of Longueuil, Que., ranks fourth in women's halfpipe this season.
The 21-year-old placed seventh in last month's X Games in Aspen, Colo., and sixth last year in Beijing.
Calgary's World Cup also serves as an international warm-up for the world championship Feb. 19 to March 5 in Bakuriani, Georgia.
D'Hondt was only 14 years old when she was invited to the 2020 X Games in Aspen as an alternate. She joined the field because of withdrawals and placed sixth in her debut.
The Canadian was invited again this year as an alternate, but D'Hondt declined her invitation to the January event.
"I just felt my time would be better spent training in my home pipe in preparation for Calgary's World Cup as well as Mammoth," she explained.
WinSport's halfpipe is the largest in Western Canada at 6.7 metres high, 22 metres wide, 160 metres long and a vertical of 83 degrees.
Calgary was an occasional training stop for retired American snowboard legend Shaun White because of the pipe’s dimensions and night lighting.
"My favourite part about it is that it's 10 minutes from my house and when you're standing at the top of the pipe, you can see the whole city and it's also one of the only places in the world that you can ride at night," D'Hondt said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press