Tyler Mosher traded his skis back in for his snowboard on the weekend as the World Snowboard Federation Para-Snowboard World Cup Tour wrapped up with a pair of races held Friday and Saturday (April 8 and 9) at Lake Louise.

The Whistler resident and para-snowboard world champion recorded the best Canadian finish on both days, including a fourth-place result in Friday’s race that saw him just sixth-tenths of a second off the podium.

“Ideally, I would have liked to have been on the podium but I came up short due to my inability to land certain features at full speed during the race,” Mosher said Monday (April 11). “Sometimes you come up short, and that’s racing.

“If I had trained more, I think I would have competed for gold better. Although fourth and sixth place are good, they’re not good enough for me.”

Though there was room for improvement, one could excuse Mosher for less-than-stellar results considering that he’s spent recent weeks focused on the sport he competed in during the 2010 Paralympic Games.

The 38-year-old finished off the final two legs of his Birkebeiner cross-country ski race tour that began near Edmonton in early February. From there Mosher and a group of friends also completed the American ‘Birkie’ in Wisconsin at the end of February before taking on the legendary, original Birkebeiner in Norway in mid-March.

“The reality of it is that, yeah, I was focused on another sport and if you want to win, you need to focus on succeeding at that sport,” said Mosher, who was paralyzed in a snowboarding fall more than a decade ago but has since regained 60 per cent mobility in his legs.

“Maybe next year, if it’s a Paralympic sport, I’ll be training more specifically for snowboarding.”

Birkebeiners are 54-kilometre Nordic marathons. In the Norwegian event, participants must go up and over a mountain range while carrying a 3.5-kilogram sack from start to finish.

“Completing all three Birkebeiners over a five-week period is personally satisfying, a huge success and one of the greatest achievements in my life so far,” said Mosher, calling the stop in Norway “the pinnacle” of the tour. “Twenty-four kilometres of it is a climb right out of the start up and over the mountains. It was quite exciting and almost equal to competing in the Paralympic Games at home in my mind. I think I did fairly well for the amount I trained and I really enjoyed the whole adventure.”

Though the North American Birkies are huge in their own right with thousands of skiers taking part, they are dwarfed by the Norwegian race, which draws more than 16,000 participants each year.

Not surprisingly, Mosher said there’s a pretty special atmosphere at the event.

“The start is huge. It’s like the Boston or New York marathons where there’s thousands of people and you’re moving in packs of hundreds,” he said. “One person told me it looked like a pilgrimage and, to a certain extent for many people, it kind of is.”

Mosher is now one of approximately 100 people who can lay claim to a Haakon Haakonsson Award, which is given to skiers conquering all three Birkies. Only about 15 of those have completed the hat trick in the same winter.

Mosher said he’ll now change gears for the summer and decide where he’ll put his training focus next. He has an eye on competing in the 2014 Paralympics, though not on skis.

“I think I’m done competing for Canada in cross-country skiing, but I might be training for another world loppet next year,” said Mosher, who is optimistic that the International Paralympic Committee will add adaptive snowboarding to the sports program in Sochi.

He said it’s his understanding a decision will be made by October, though he’s hoping it comes earlier. Another World Cup race is scheduled for August in New Zealand.

Eric McKenzie, Whistler Question April 14 2011