For the second year in a row, Whistler’s Cooper Bathgate has found himself on the Freeride World Tour (FWT) roster.
However, unlike last year, when injuries forced him to miss the cut after the first three stops on the world tour, Cooper’s got his sights set on a podium finish this year.
“My Achilles was not that good last season, so I wasn’t skiing super strong and then obviously I didn’t make the cut because of that, so I got knocked off. But because there was no freeride world-qualifier events in Canada last season, they basically brought me back on in that Canadian spot,” he said.
“So it’s pretty exciting because I kind of thought it was over with, so for them to bring me back is pretty sweet. My expectation is a podium, and my goal is a win, but we’ll see. I’m just really happy to give it another crack and show what I’m capable of.”
Cooper, like most kids who grew up in Whistler, started skiing at a young age but knew early on that ski racing wasn’t for him. It wasn’t until he joined the Whistler Freeride Club’s Mountain Adventure Program that he discovered his passion for freeriding and the freedom and individuality it allows you as opposed to more structured disciplines like freestyle.
Now, at 23 years old, he has reached the top of his chosen discipline and is looking to make a name for himself on the FWT. But getting to this point wasn’t a solo effort. Cooper has always had an advantage over pretty much everyone else in the sport due to the fact he has had his twin brother Jackson right there by his side through every competition.
“It’s awesome. I found it really helpful when we did the qualifier events together because a lot of people are so secretive with everyone else of where they are going to go ski, but Jackson and I would always tell each other where we are going to go because we ski similar styles but a lot of it would be different,” said Cooper. “So it’s nice having someone like that to bounce feedback off of that you know isn’t going try and bite your line and go ski it before you.”
While Cooper is more calculated about his runs, and tends to stick to things he knows he can land, Jackson is more of the go-big or go-home style of rider who will “hit the biggest air on the face… and have a 50-50 shot at landing it,” according to his twin.
For Jackson, who was kept out of competitions all last year after suffering a slipped disk in his back, seeing his brother competing on the world stage at the top of their sport has added some extra motivation to show out this season in hopes of joining Cooper on the tour in 2023.
“[Seeing Cooper on the FWT] definitely kind of lights a fire,” said Jackson. “It kind of makes me want to do it more … We are so similar at skiing so if he can do it, I’m sure I can be up there with him.”
But despite the advantage of having someone to bounce ideas off before your run, and the fact that there is no one they’d rather see win than each other, when the Bathgate brothers are competing head-to-head, there’s also no one they want to beat more.
“That’s kind of the fiercest competition at the end of the day is between us, and then everybody else just kind of fits in,” said Jackson.
But when asked who has gotten the better of whom over their many competitions, Jackson joked that it probably “depends who you ask.”
“If you ask [Cooper], I’m sure he’ll say he’s in the FWT,” said Jackson. “So he’s probably lucked out a few more times than I have, but hopefully my luck will turn around and I’ll get to be up there with him and show him who’s boss on the Freeride World Tour.”
The World Tour kicks off Jan. 22 to 28 in Baqueira Beret, Spain before making stops in Ordino-Arcalís, Andorra, Golden, B.C., Fieberbrunn, Austria, and Verbier, Switzerland.
Meanwhile Jackson will be competing in Revelstoke and Kicking Horse on Jan. 24 and 27, respectively, where he will try to be among the top 50 North American riders who will head over to Europe for two more competitions in hopes of qualifying for the 2023 World tour.
“I just have to stay healthy. That’s the biggest thing I have working against me,” said Jackson. “I haven’t put in full season in four years now just with injuries and all that. So I just want to get a full season of skiing and competing and then I think I can do it from there if I get to go to all the events that I want to.”