Front row from left, Louis Morin, Jean-Marc Rozon and Dominique Laroche at Labatt Montreal Brewery in 1982. D. Laroche private collection.

Quebec Air Force

A Legacy of Success

Affiliated Discipline(s): Freestyle: Moguls, Aerials, Ballet
Achievements: FIS World Cup titles, FIS World Ski Championships, Olympic Winter games podiums and Gold to name a few in various freestyle categories.

Freestyle skiing in Canada was flourishing in the 1970s to the early 1990s, setting the stage for a motivated, creative and talented group of freestyle skiers from Quebec .

“The Quebec Air Force″ group was born and they dominated competitions worldwide for years. Inspired by early Quebec aerial success from John Eaves, Craig Clow, Jean Corriveau and Pierre Poulin, and followed by the next generation that included the Laroche brothers, Lloyd Langlois, Jean-Marc Rozon, Marie-Claude Asselin and many more.

This marked the beginning of a long line of dominating performances by Canadian skiers in freestyle disciplines that continues today.

Québec Air Force members in Oberjoch Germany in 1982 when they first found incredible success on the world stage. From left to right: Dominique Laroche, Pierre Poulin, Craig Clow, Yves Laroche, Jean Corriveau and Jean-Marc Rozon. D. Laroche private collection.

Owning the Podium

An international professional circuit of freestyle skiers established itself in the early 1970s, prior to the sport becoming officially organized through the Canadian Association (1974) and before freestyle became governed by the International Ski Federation in 1981. An interesting phenomenon began to occur on these podiums within the first few years.

It was the athletes from Quebec who began to consistently earning podium finishes, at times with seven to eight skiers within the top 10 finishers. At one point, Canada boasted 13 of the top 16 aerialist skiers in the world, most of whom were from Quebec.

Who is Part of the Quebec Air Force?

The Quebec Air Force was not a designation that these athletes gave to themselves, nor was it an official club with membership. It was, however, one given with pride from national and international competitors and media who witnessed their incredible dominance.

The “Quebec Air Force”, comprised of men and women competing at the international level, were the ones to beat for many years. To be considered a member of this group meant that you had to be from Quebec and do well in competition. 

Marie-Claude Asselin (left) and Jean Corriveau (centre) of the Québec Air Force, alongside Lauralee Bowie and Mike Memesvary behind in Whistler, 1982. D. Laroche private collection.

Summer training with ramps and ski jumps in pools at Le Relais at Lac Beauport, Quebec. [L-R] Victor Laroche, Serge Lavoie, Alain Laroche, Philippe Laroche, Nicolas Fontaine and daughter Charlie, Jean-Marc Rozon, Brad Suey and daughter. D. Laroche private collection.

The Keys to Success

According to Canadian coach Dominique Laroche, a former freestyle competitor, one factor that gave the Quebec skiers a huge advantage in competition was beyond their pure talent. The athletes themselves developed training systems to get ahead. These included homemade ramps and practicing in pools and on trampolines year-round. At one point there were more water ramps in Quebec than there were in the rest of the world combined.

It was the Quebec Air Force’s early adoption of these technologies and their ingenuity in using it them that made them world leaders. Their most important priority was to push the boundaries of the sport in new directions.

They were the first in the world to perform multiple twisting triple back flips. They were always pushing boundaries. Part of the key to their success was that they always worked together and pushed each other. 

“Quebec’s dominance in freestyle skiing spans decades…They individually contributed to creating history, making headlines and heightening culture of love for a sport that, realistically, is niche outside of La Belle Province.”

Deidra Dionne · for CBC Sports

 

Members of the popular Quebec Air Force 1986. From L to R: Yves Laroche, Lloyd Langlois, Alain Laroche. D. Laroche private collection.

Passing the Baton

Aside from the forward-thinking infrastructure and training systems they created and constructed, there were intangible ingredients that made the Quebec Air Force unique. The real friendships and the fierce competitive spirit they had even amongst themselves led the group to worldwide success.

There was also an inter-generational advantage. By the time younger athletes like Nicolas Fontaine and Jean-Luc Brassard came along, they had the systems in place and the mentorship to be able to perpetuate this dominant legacy.

     

World Cups and World Championships

The World Cup began in 1978 and the first FIS World Championship took place in 1986.

A small snapshot of Québec Air Force Members who achieved extraordinary heights of success in these competitions included five-time world champion Marie-Claude Asselin and World Cup winners Jean Corriveau, Craig Clow, Yves Laroche and Jean-Marc Rozon. At the very first ISF World Championships, Lloyd Langlois and Alain Laroche won the championships titles.

Lloyd Langlois (left), Jean-Marc Rozon (center) and Alain LaRoche (right) at Freestyle World Cup in La Clusaz, France. CSHFM Collection.

Philippe Laroche (left) and Lloyd Langlois (right) celebrate after winning silver and bronze in the freestyle ski aerials event at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics. Team Canada Official Olympic Site.

The Olympic Games

Freestyle skiing premiered at the Calgary Olympics in 1988 as a demonstration event, where Jean-Marc Rozon took home the gold medal in aerials and Lloyd Langlois captured the silver. In 1992,  aerials were again a demonstration sport in Albertville, France, where Philippe Laroche earned gold and upstart Nicolas Fontaine took home the silver.

This set the stage for 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway where, as a full-medal sport, four Canadian men placed in the top-six in aerials, with Philippe Laroche and Lloyd Langlois earning the silver and bronze, respectively. During those same Olympic Games, Quebec mogul skier Jean-Luc Brassard took home the gold. Quebec’s ensuing dominance in moguls was an offshoot of the province’s success in aerials.        

Watch the First Ever Canada Olympic Gold Win in Freestyle Moguls | LILLEHAMMER 1994 Freestyle Moguls Final Men Olympic Games

Jean-Luc Brassard’s gold medal winning run from Lillehammer in 1994.

“This passion for freestyle skiing, I try my best to pass it onto the new generation, it’s still very much alive.”

– Nicolas Fontaine

Canada’s Nicolas Fontaine competes in the freestyle ski aerials event at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games. CP Photo/ COA/Mike Ridewood.

The talented and successful Dufour-Lapointe sisters (Maxime, left, Chloé and Justine) carry on the legacy of dominance set by the trailblazing Québec Air Force. COC – Mike Ridewood.

Cementing a Legacy

Since the 1990s, Quebec has maintained its dominance in freestyle skiing, in part due to the Quebec Air Force pioneers, who paved the way and inspired young skiers. In the early 2000s, as many Canadians gravitated towards freeskiing and other ski disciplines, Quebec’s new generations did not lose sight of the success of past champions.

Alexandre Bilodeau fell in love with freestyle after watching Jean-Luc Brassard. The Dufour-Lapointe sisters and Mikaël Kingsbury are also proudly carrying the torch.

The most dominant male moguls skier in history, Mikaël Kingsbury completed his trophy case at PyeongChang 2018, winning the Olympic gold medal. Canadian Olympic Committee.

Hear How Jean-Luc Brassard Met Alexandre Bilodeau

Jean-Luc Brassard describes how he met an eager young 11-year-old named Alexandre Bilodeau.

[L to R] Jean-Marc Rozon, Lloyd Langlois and Nicolas Fontaine. La Tribune Numérique latribune.ca.

Looking Back

Once a year, some of the original members of the impressive Quebec Air Force get together. Jean-Marc, Lloyd, Nicolas and the Laroche brothers reminisce about the incredible memories surrounding aerials.

Only after a full day of jumping do these athletes share a meal, rich conversation, and of course, very fond memories of their accomplishments, travels and camaraderie.

“What I remember most fondly are my two friends with whom I started this all, two guys who have been with me throughout my whole career, my very good friends.”

– Jean-Marc Rozon

To Learn More

A CBC article about Quebec’s love affair with freestyle skiing.

The History of Freestyle in Canada. Freestyle Canada.

Three of the original Québec Air Force members reminisce in this La Tribune article.

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