A CHAT WITH FJWT LEADER JACKSON BATHGATE
It’s hard for a 17 year old from Whistler to stand out from the crowd but dedicating your self to the competitive free ride skiing circuit from a young age is a good start. When most 13 year old kids are working on their lip blind 2s, Jackson Bathgate stepped up to the famous Air Jordan double staged cliff; normally a proving ground for furry faced chargers skipping out of university, not middle school. Jackson is well known for his high energy and mischievous ways. He has fun doing what he does, and when that is often high stakes competition, that is what really makes him stand out.
Despite having only watched Heavy Hitting Films’ Parental Advisory last year (!) Jackson has followed the now standard mountain child upbringing. Unapologetically a Whistler (not Blackcomb) fan, he cut his teeth with the WB ski school before graduating to the Whistler Freeride Club at age 11 thanks to the encouragement of long time coach Derek Foose. From here he began travelling the country, and now world, competing, finding community and building a mature perspective that comes with the dramatic world of big mountain skiing.
Below is a conversation with the current leader of the Freeride Junior World Tour.
On competitive freeride skiing…
The vibes and lifestyle are the two big reasons I love being apart of the circuit. Who doesn’t want to go to a new mountain with 100 plus other good skiers and shred? Whenever the comp isn’t happening a mega-shred-posse definitely is.
It’s good to have the opportunity to ski and become friends with like-minded-individuals all around the world!
I prefer to do my own thing at the top of a comp. Where I’m at right now, the coaches know my style and know I like to do my own thing. This makes it a lot easier to be successful with a coach.
In the 15-18 year-old-category many of the athletes are pushing their own boundaries in these comps and develop an eye for what they want to ski.
When it really comes down to it; if you want to hit a feature on the venue because it looks fun and manageable to you, then you’ll do it with or without your coach’s approval.
On what makes the Whistler Freeride Club special…
The program is awesome, it doesn’t have a strict training program. We tend to shred as a posse and stay away from the strict regimented side of the sport.
This style of coaching allows you to develop your own style and unique tweaks to your skiing. I love the shred-posse style of the WFC!
With the opportunity to travel and ski in so many places, what has been your favourite venue ever?
The El Dorado 2* at Vallnord-Arcalis (Andorra). It was a simple, pure, big mountain venue. It’s gnarly, with no closures and endless options for techy skiing or monster hucking.
And what is your favourite Canadian venue?
Hands down Compton’s at Kicking Horse Mountain. There are tons of variation and creative line choices.
The European competitions seem to encourage hucking more than the North American ones. Do you enjoy that freedom or does it worry you that there are young kids being rewarded to ski like that?
The judges do reward hucking more so then in North America but they still reward in control skiing with a few airs versus one massive huck. The judges and event staff at Andorra did discourage unstick-able lines by suggesting people go somewhere else but they ultimately left the decision in the athletes hands. I think the freedom to go where you please on the venue is awesome, albeit, not for everyone.
Typically, in North America competitors must inspect their lines while skiing on the venue but in Europe it is much less involved and more visual. How do you find visual inspections?
Visual inspection is a tough skill to learn. Last year at the FJWC I struggled with this and put in a lot of work to fine tune my skills before the FJWC in 2016. This year was much easier. As soon as I looked at the face I knew exactly where I wanted to ski. They gave us the opportunity to boot pack up beside the venue and walk onto the venue about midway down. This was the only point I could see the take off for my bottom air. It ended up being pretty mellow given the circumstances. All in all, the FJWC went better then I could have dreamed!
That's a wrap! Unfortunately #eurotrip2016 has come to an end but managed to pull of the win at the World Championships! Feeling is surreal right now definitely hasn't sunk in the I'm the new World champion. Words can not describe what the feeling was like seeing a 91.75 come in on the scoreboard, most amazing feeling in the world. Canada took 1st,2nd and 4th almost a Canadian sweep!
I would say so. You ended up winning! How much did your Tinder matching rate go up afterwards?
You’ve got support from a custom ski company which is a pretty unique opportunity. Tell us about the skis you’ve created with Folsom.
Yeah, Ryan Prentice at Folsom reached out to Cooper and I to see if we wanted to join their team 3 years ago. I stuck with the shape of the Kingpin ski, but it is a very different ski then you’ll find for sale from Folsom on Backcountry.com. I prefer quite a soft ski with reverse camber to keep it nimble and playful. I’ve had them add bamboo to the core to keep it nice and poppy!
Helly Hansen, Folsom Custom Skis, Full Tilt, Smith Optics, Soul Poles and CSM Tune shop
Thanks for chatting Jackson. Good luck with the rest of your season.
Thanks for the opportunity!