While it would be a big mistake to chalk up Logan Pehota's success to mere beginner's luck, the 20-year-old acknowledges his early Freeride World Tour (FWT) success has surprised even him.
The tour rookie, son of freeskiing legend Eric, sits atop the FWT table after scoring a second-place finish at Chamonix on Feb. 5. He opened the season with a fourth-place showing at Vallnord, Andorra and has now amassed an even 4,000 points, though France's Loic Collomb-Patton (3,605) and Austria's Fabio Studer (3,480) will provide stiff challenges in the season's second half.
"When I came second, I wasn't even thinking about how I was going to be standing overall, but when I found out later that day I was in first, it was good to know and put my mindset on maybe going for the overall (title) at the end of the tour," the Pembertonian said. "At the start, I never had that be a goal of mine."
After admittedly taking a more conservative route in Andorra, Pehota opted for a more aggressive tack this time out, ultimately finding a way to rise up onto the podium.
"I was pretty scared. I was 50-50 on the line. I wasn't 100-per-cent sure I was going to be able to make it, but I decided at the top that I was going to go for it," he said. "I did and it worked out and it was awesome."
The run's jaw-dropper was a cliff drop Pehota approached with meticulous precision before launching himself what he estimated to be between nine to 12 metres (30 and 40 feet) down.
"When I was coming up to it, it was super-blind and the snow was kind of variable, kind of crunchy so as I was rolling over the edge, I was like 'I hope this is the right one' because I went a little bit past, a little further down the ridge than I'd intended to," he recalled. "I still took off in the right place and landed right in the pocket.
"That's probably one of the bigger (jumps) I've hit. It was just a little stressful just because of how blind (I was) and how accurate I had to be in the landing."
France's Collomb-Patton captured the win in front of the home crowd with a score of 89.33 to knock off Pehota's 86.66, while Studer placed third with a score of 85.
On the women's side, fellow rookie Lauren Cameron of Whistler placed seventh, an improvement on the 11th-place showing she put up in Andorra. She currently sits 10th in the standings.
Even with the early success, Pehota knows there's still room to grow, something he takes in while watching the circuit's veterans make mincemeat of the mountains.
"The guys that have placed ahead of me have been doing it for awhile and have a lot more experience than me, I think. That probably shows, and they're also super-solid skiers who stomp everything," he said.
Pehota will enjoy the next few weeks at home in Spud Valley as the third event won't take place until early March in Fieberbrunn, Austria.
With things currently going well, Pehota is taking the time to recharge his batteries and do some filming while otherwise taking a hands-off, if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it approach to his skiing.
"It seems to be working out, eh?"
Bathgate hits podium
Meanwhile, in younger freeride action, Jackson Bathgate used a strong second run to climb onto the podium at the Jeep Junior Freeski event at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort on Feb. 6 and 7.
The newly minted World Junior champion sat sixth after the first day of action, but ripped off the second day's best run to jump up to second place in the boys' 15 to 18 division, ultimately finishing 2.2 points back of Whitewater's Parkin Constin.
The two other Whistler Freeride Club entries in the division slipped on the second day, with Bathgate's twin brother Cooper ending up in eighth and Tom Peiffer tumbling to 15th.
In the boys' 12 to 14 category, Eric Peiffer was in striking distance of a podium finish after the first day, sitting fourth, but dropped a spot to eventually finish fifth. Connor Darnborough, meanwhile, did not qualify for a second run on Sunday.
The club's final entry, Nathaniel Wilson, posted a couple consistent days of skiing to place fourth in the boys' seven to 11 event.
Other WFC members were in Stevens Pass for the Jim Jack's Cowboy Up Freeride Challenge.
Rhegan Williamson topped the female 15 to 18 category, as did Luke Lister in the male 15 to 18 division. Karina Jorgensen-Fullam nabbed second in the female 12 to 14 event and Lachlan McNeill made the podium in third in the male 12 to 14 category. Olivia McNeill, meanwhile, went home with the Jim Jack's Spirit Bird Award. Complete results are available on the Whistler Freeride Club Facebook page.