The last time Jackson Bathgate was in Andorra, he saw his gold-medal aspirations fade fairly quickly.
A year back, Bathgate was there for the Freeride Junior World Championships but a couple early falls knocked him out of contention early.
Fast-forward to this past weekend and Bathgate returned to Vallnord-Arcilis to put down a consistent run at the El Dorado Freeride Junior competition. The 17-year-old edged out local Guim Campeny Ferrer by posting a winning score of 83.00 to the Andorran's 81.3. Argentina's Jaimie Lopez Garrido was well back in third with a score of 73.5.
Reached by email while still in Andorra, where he will take part in the world junior event this weekend for the second consecutive year, Bathgate was particularly happy to take a win in Europe, where competitors cannot ride the course beforehand.
"It was great to win a competition using visual inspection. It gives me a huge confidence boost knowing I can compete at this level internationally," he said. "The pressure was off a bit because nobody knew me so there were no expectations."
When analyzing the course, Bathgate explained he knew exactly what he wanted to do right away. The course was still relatively pristine, as Bathgate was just the sixth competitor in his division to go.
"The line I skied jumped out at me as soon as I looked at the competition face," he wrote. "I opened my run with a pretty big 360 right at the top of the face that I hoped would get the judges' attention. The middle feature on my line was a bit dicey but it worked out well, and I gapped from one side of a chute to the other at the bottom to put a stamp on the run."
Whistler Blackcomb Junior Freeride Club head coach Derek Foose said with "wonky" snow conditions at the resort, any advantage of having been there previously was lost. However, with some tweaks to his skiing, Bathgate overcame any challenges presented to him and looks prepared to challenge for a win on Jan. 28.
"The two best parts of Jackson's run to me were that he skied exactly the line he selected from top to bottom, and that he was ultra fluid. The fluidity through a challenging run is what sets the big dogs apart. He is 100-per-cent ready for World Championships," Foose wrote.
Foose added it's a boost for an athlete to come over and win without having skied the course, which they are able to do at North American competitions.
"Jackson's win is a great boost for the WFC. It's great to know that not only are the athletes laying down great results on the North American circuit, they are also capable of killing it on the international scene," he noted.
In other freeride action, several local athletes hit the podium at the Canadian Freeriding Open at Red Mountain.
Jackson's twin brother Cooper placed third in the male 15-18 division with a score of 29.9, just off Matthew White's 30.2.
In the female 12-14 category, Mary Power took third with a combined 56.3, back of winner Anna Thompson's 57.4.
And in the female 15-18 division, Aoife Gannon and Rhegan Williamson were just a tenth of a point apart to take second and third, respectively. Alex Beswick won with a score of 58.5, 0.7 points up on Gannon.
Lastly, in the female 7-11 category, local independent riders Sophia Guy and Emilia Oziewicz were first and third, respectively.
Full results are available at www.canadianfreeskiing.com.