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Freeride Junior World Championships: The Kids Are Alright

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Jackson Bathgate and Synnøve Medhus took the win in an action-packed freeride contest today in Andorra.


Forget about “juniors”—the riders at the Freeride Junior World Championships skied like grown men and women today in an impressive display of talent on the Tosse de Caraup contest face in Granvalira, Andorra.

Mora Banc Skiers Cup Grandvalira 2016 - www.skierscup.com

Photo: freerideworldtour.com/Dom Daher

After exciting runs on all aspects of the venue from a field of 59 competitors from 15 different countries, Jackson Bathgate of Canada and Synnøve Medhus of Norway claimed the top men’s and women’s podium spots with scores of 91.75 and 74.5 respectively.

Originally scheduled for Thursday, January 28, the FJWC had been bumped to today after cloudy and cool conditions kept the thin freeze-thaw snowpack from adequately softening. But today the weather played along: a bright morning sun and no wind allowed the snow on the contest face to soften enough for the juniors to throw down in fine form—even if the snow was in spring corn condition, rather than the desired fluffy powder.

Mora Banc Skiers Cup Grandvalira 2016 - www.skierscup.com

Photo: freerideworldtour.com/Dom Daher

The junior men came out of the start gate hot, spinning 360s on features across the venue and boosting big airs. Kevin Nichols and Xander Guldman, both of the USA, launched backflips off of the aptly named “Backflip Rock,” and France’s Tom Gratadour even went for broke with an attempted double backflip off the same feature! But the line of the day went to Canadian Jackson Bathgate of Whistler, who blasted a huge technical drop through the venue’s top section before stomping a massive 360 off a difficult cliff drop. Nigel Ziegler, also of Canada, took second place with strong skiing and a 360 of his own, while Guldman took third with his perfectly stomped backflip.

“It was super fun today,” said second-place finisher Ziegler. “With just a visual inspection, it’s kind of scary. All the airs were blind, so I just went as fast as I could off of them, hoping to gap the rocks, and it worked.”

“Every single person was throwing down sick runs,” he added.

Mora Banc Skiers Cup Grandvalira 2016 - www.skierscup.com

Photo: freerideworldtour.com/Dom Daher

On the women’s side, Medhus skied fast and in control through several drops to nail the top spot. She was accompanied on the podium by Olivia Askew of the USA and Illana Carlod of France.

“I wasn’t that happy with my own run,” said Medhus. “I backslapped a little bit, so I couldn’t believe it that I got first. It feels like a dream.”

“When I saw the boys, it was like watching the seniors,” she said. “They are so good. And also the girls, they were awesome. It’s only getting better and better.”

Mora Banc Skiers Cup Grandvalira 2016 - www.skierscup.com

Photo: freerideworldtour.com/Dom Daher

All in all, this certainly didn’t look like a “Juniors” competition today—these kids skied large and in charge, showing that a huge groundswell of young talent is on its way up the ranks of the freeride world. They were even more motivated by the presence of the riders of the Mona Banc Skier’s Cup, who watched the runs from the bottom while waiting for their own chance to hit the face later in the afternoon during the “Big Mountain” segment of their event (article on the Skier’s Cup happenings is on its way!)

“These kids are insane!” said Skier’s Cup competitor Parker White. “I don’t think the pros can ride any better.”

Mora Banc Skiers Cup Grandvalira 2016 - www.skierscup.com

Photo: freerideworldtour.com/Dom Daher

Congratulations to the podium finishers and to all the riders who threw down today! The future of freeriding competition certainly looks bright.

If any further proof is needed that these kids are gnarly, I received it when I foolhardily attempted to ski the run out from the contest face back down into the valley on the advice of some of the competitors that the route “wasn’t that bad.” After half an hour of precarious bushwhacking through brush and grass in a steep, sketchy canyon, I finally made it down in one piece, much more enlightened about how crazy these kids actually are. Next time when asking whether something is skiable or not, I’ll be sure to consider the source of the information!

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andorra, fjwc, Freeride Junior World Championships