PHOTO: Robin O’Neill
PHOTO: Robin O’Neill

Keep Your Eye on This Young Skier

Freeride Junior World Champion Jackson Bathgate makes the jump to the big leagues

PHOTO: Robin O'Neill

After stomping out the winning run at the Freeride Junior World Championships in Andorra last winter, Jackson Bathgate, 18, secured his place at the top of the international podium. The victory was one of two options for the Whistler native—go full throttle and win, or crash and don't finish. That's his strength, says Derek Foose, Bathgate's longtime coach at the Whistler Freeride Club—he goes all out, his style is playful, and he's fired up to go skiing regardless of conditions.

"There's not a lot of in between with Jackson. That technique, when it works out, it works out big, but it's been a rollercoaster to watch," says Foose. "It's who he is. As coaches, we can moderate it to keep him safe, but you can't change who somebody is."

Bathgate entered the competition circuit at age 12, alongside his twin brother, Cooper. Coming off his win in Andorra, he doesn't have much more to prove in the junior field, and since he turned 18 this February, he is one step closer to his long-term goal: landing a spot on the adult Freeride World Tour.

"I would not be surprised at all to see Jackson podium an event in his first season, but it will come down to how he adapts," says 2015 FWT winner Sam Smoothy. "Full-throttle skiing can blow the competition away, but it can also blow out if things don't go your way." —Sierra Davis

Being one of the younger guys, I know I have more chances going forward, and a lot more time to make it on to the tour. That takes off some of the pressure while I get the hang of it.

After I landed that bottom air [in Andorra], I was hoping it was going to be enough to win, but I couldn't even see the score, I was too stoked.

In Europe, there are no rules and nobody will say no to you. You can ski wherever you want and people will look at you like you are crazy, but they won't tell you not to do it.

My dad passed away in 2011. It happened skiing. He was the coach for the Canadian National race team, but he just wanted me to ski. He didn't care how.

The ones who die doing it, they are all pushing the sport to the limit, so [losing someone] is going to happen at some point to everyone.

But as long as you're happy when you die, that's OK. It's definitely tough to decide if you're living life to make other people happy or if you want to be chasing your dream.

When racing surrounds you, you don't really want to have anything to do with it. After two years, I knew I wasn't into it and wanted to go down my own path.

Growing up, I loved Shane and Candide. And I started skiing a lot with Martin Lentz, following him around, chasing him. He sees everything as a new feature and always skis it differently.

The biggest difference between my twin brother and I is our ski style. Cooper is much more calculated and lands almost everything.

I'm a little more stupid sometimes. But stupid is not always bad, especially when you ski. You always have to be a little stupid.

I don't really like school. I'm not that into it and I didn't want to feel bad about missing classes when I was skiing pow. I do my schoolwork at nighttime online after skiing.

I ski with my mom on Christmas every year. We all go skiing together at Whistler and it's so quiet. It's usually pow and nobody is up there.

I want to push the sport because I want to ski off bigger stuff. I don't feel a responsibility to push the sport for anyone but myself.