A pair of Whistler skiers scored national medals as they look to do the same internationally.
In their first competition of the year, Jackson and Cooper Bathgate scored silver and bronze medals, respectively, in the male 15-to-18 category at the Canadian Open Freeskiing Championships at Red Mountain Resort near Rossland, B.C. on Jan. 24. The competition was a warm-up for the pair, as they'll compete as part of the Canadian team at the 2015 Freeride Junior World Championships in Grandvalira, Andorra on Feb. 7.
The twins were beaten out for gold by fellow Whistler Freeride Club member Tom Peiffer of West Vancouver. Peiffer thrashed through his two runs, finishing one-tenth of a point off the best score in his first run before picking up top marks in the second to finish with a total of 66.27. Jackson Bathgate notched a combined score of 64.70 while Cooper Bathgate was a tick behind at 64.53.
Jackson explained conditions were ideal up until the final day of competition when they became "unpredictable" after warmer weather blew in.
"We were on the radio with a couple of the coaches who were at the bottom watching people ski," he said. "It was getting stickier than in other places, so we could prepare for it at the top."
Jackson was happy with the line he skied en route to silver.
Cooper, meanwhile, felt he had a few "bobbles" that he'll look to work out before heading over to Europe.
"I'm going to try to clean that up for Worlds," he said. "I want to clean up my spins and all in all, make my lines gnarlier and more flowy."
However, he was happy with the triple air in the bottom section few others hit, which gave him a last kick of confidence.
The third and final member of the male contingent heading over to Andorra is Tom Peiffer's twin Liam, who was eighth on the weekend. The three skiers were determined by last season's results.
Skiers do not have the opportunity to try out the course before competition, and must rely solely on a visual inspection, something in which the Bathgates are taking a crash course.
"I'm still finding that a little different than the typical on-hill inspection in North America," Jackson said. "It's going to be different skiing terrain that hasn't been skied before. I have to get used to landing in pow and not punching forward."
Cooper noted the team would be leaving Friday in order to adequately prepare for the event — and to make sure any hang-ups with lost luggage or equipment can be dealt with before they need to hit the slopes.
WBFC head coach Derek Foose, who will join the Bathgates and Liam Peiffer in Andorra as national head coach, said the brothers performed admirably.
"They both went in with a solid plan and were able to execute exactly what they planned on doing. That's pretty much the goal for this sport," Foose said.
Foose explained the Bathgates are the yin to the other's yang.
"They're quite different in their style, both in skiing and in their preparation," he said. "It's pretty cool working with them, because although they're twins, they're very different as athletes.
"Cooper is extremely calculated and very consistent, and Jackson has a little more of the wingnut (mentality). He's the guy where he's going to win or he's going to explode doing something spectacular. They both have their merits."
Even with divergent approaches, the twins are cool, calm, and collected, said Foose.
"They're both really good under pressure," he said. "They have their own ways of dealing with it, but they both manage the pressure and the expectations."
Foose was also thrilled with Tom Peiffer's gold — his first International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA) podium finish — especially in light of his brother and friends getting the chance to go to Worlds and being the odd one out.
"He's a bit less confident in his abilities, but they're clearly there," he said. "We worked a lot with Tom on just believing in the line that he chooses, and that he was able to do it. He chose something that perfectly suited his skill set and that's a really important part of the game with competitive freeskiing — it's not just choosing a line, but it's choosing a line that complements your style."
Foose said even people outside of the Whistler club were thrilled with Peiffer's win.
"When they called his name for first place, the entire room just erupted. Everybody there, including both the Bathgates who were already standing on the podium, were cheering and jumping up and down and clapping," Foose recalled.
Cooper noted his friend and teammate tends to struggle at Red Mountain, so for him to enjoy a breakthrough there was particularly gratifying.
"It was so cool to be on the podium with him," he said.
Other local medallists at the competition were Carlene Loughlin, who won the female 15-18 division, Troy Rozsypalek, who won bronze in the male 12-14 division, Olivia McNeil, who won third in the female 12-14 division and Lachlan McNeil, who took bronze in the male 7-11 division.