For the second year in a row, a Whistler Freeride Club member won the Eldorado Freeride Junior competition leading into the world juniors.
Like Jackson Bathgate in 2016, Rhegan Williamson will be looking to ride this momentum and complete the double after winning the competition in Baqueira, Spain on the weekend.
Speaking from Andorra, the site of the Freeride Junior World Championships on Feb. 5, Williamson was thrilled with how she performed in her first overseas competition, especially with the added wrinkle that European events do not allow competitors to ride the area beforehand.
"I was very surprised. It was my first visual inspection comp rather than being on the face and being able to see everything I wanted to do. That was really exciting for me and it was awesome to know that going into Andorra here at the world championships to know that I could pick out my line and not get lost," she said.
Williamson noted that while she's usually nervous when prepared to drop, she was calmer this time around, perhaps in part because she didn't know exactly what was ahead.
When doing her visual inspection, Williamson explained her priorities were to find ways to remember her line possibilities, as well as to come up with a number of potential options in case anything went sideways in the course of competition.
"I was looking for something that I could make landmarks of and find a way that I won't get lost going to where I wanted to be," she said. "I wanted to pick a line that I was comfortable with and not going way over what I think I could do.
"You have to make sure different options are available to you. You have to pick out Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, just in case."
Sure enough, those came in handy as when Williamson was skiing down, she realized her original plan wouldn't be possible to execute. She quickly changed tack and made her second option work.
"The second air (feature) I won't be able to get to fast enough after the first air I did, so I decided to make a Plan B where if I couldn't get there, I would just speed around this other area," she said. "I ended up having to do that."
In terms of her skiing, Williamson opted to try to put the pressure on her fellow competitors, skiing quickly and confidently.
"I just tried to ski strong and aggressively. I tried to keep a very aggressive downhill stance, almost racer style. I tried to keep it all together," she said.
European judges, she noted, are a bit different to please compared to those over here, and it showed in how many of the native riders approached their runs, as they looked to get some significant air time.
"They just hucked as big as they could and as fast as they could," she said. "In Canada and North America, it's very calculated and everybody does what they think the judges are looking for, specifically the lines rather than big hucks."
While she'll take the confidence boost going into the worlds, Williamson acknowledges that this weekend's event will present stiffer challenges.
"(It improves confidence) a fair bit, but I'm still nervous. Andorra is a much bigger face and it's the best of the best that are here," she said.
On the men's side, Cooper Bathgate — Jackson's brother — placed fifth in Spain. Meanwhile, a third Whistlerite, Luke Lister, has joined the team in Andorra after being a late addition.
At the top level, the first Freeride World Tour event of the year has been postponed. The event, which was slated to feature Pemberton's Logan Pehota and Whistler's Lauren Cameron, was originally scheduled for this week at Chamonix, France, but will now take place at Vallnord, Andorra, the site of the second competition.
Strong winds prevented the competition from going ahead in France, so there will now be two in Andorra in the Feb. 9 to 16 event window.