SARANAC LAKE - The surest way to know you've won a ski race is by competing side-by-side with your opponents. That's how it's done in skicross, and that's one thing that KC Brousseau likes about the sport.
The 17-year-old Saranac Lake native got to see how he stacked up against many of the planet's top young skicross racers at the Freestyle Junior World Championships in Valmalenco, Italy, Tuesday, March 20.
Brousseau headed across the Atlantic for the first time in his life, and if he has his way, many more trips to Europe and beyond will follow as he pursues an Olympic dream.
KC Brousseau, a 17-year-old Saranac Lake native, is on his way to Valmalenco, Italy to compete in skicross at the Freestyle Junior World Championships.
"It's my first trip to Europe. I'm super excited," Brousseau said the day before he embarked on the adventure. "I just wish it was a longer trip. I'll be competing Tuesday and then it's right back home on Wednesday."
As is turned out, Brousseau finished in the middle of the pack, placing 31st in a field of 51 skiers.
A member of a skiing family headed by mom-and-dad ski coaches Linda and Kevin, Brousseau grew up on the slopes and has evolved from an alpine racer to a freestyle specialist during his years on the snow. He said he turned to skicross because of the sport's format and its participants are more followers of freestyle's culture.
"I potty-trained on skis, because my diapers were getting too big for my snow suit," Brousseau mused. "I grew up on skis, and I got into skicross when I was 13 after I was done alpine racing.
"Freestyle, it's a much better vibe," he added. "Racing got too serious for me. It got to the point every year where you'd have to go to a summer camp, you'd have to go to a fall camp and you'd have to have enough money. I lost the fun aspect of it. I just like to have fun with my skiing."
In addition to having fun, Brousseau said he likes competing and hopes he's successful enough at it to ski in a future Olympics. Obviously, he's heading in the right direction after his results this season led to a trip to the junior worlds.
In the sport of skicross at the junior level, the finals heats pit four racers going head-to-head, with the first one across the finish line claiming the win. The seedings for the finals come on time-trial runs where it's one skier at a time going against the clock. Those time trials are where Brousseau has excelled so far and helped him nail down a Junior World Championship berth. He's hoping the head-to-head races will also lead to success.
"It all comes down to who gets to the finish line first," Brousseau said. "In alpine, you have to wait around to see who wins on the clock. In skicross, you're right next to the guy you have to beat. You know right away when you cross the finish line whether you've won."
Brousseau said that his freestyle experience helps in skicross, especially when many of the competitors have switched over from alpine racing.
"I look at the course a lot different than most of the guys," he said. "The alpine guys tend to cut the gates as close as they can. I'll take different angles depending on how the course is set up. I might go higher up on the berms. I'll follow the terrain more."
Brousseau said he hoped to earn some valuable points in Italy that could help him land a spot on next season's United States World Cup team. Getting to that level, as well as making the Olympics, are both goals he has for the future.
"The next Olympics, that's a stretch because I'm pretty young, but I'd love to be in the Olympics at some point," Brousseau said. "The World Cup is definitely something I'd like to do next season. Knowing that I'm with the best in the world, that's exciting.
"Obviously, I'd love to win the race next week," Brousseau added. "I don't know if that will happen or not. Really, I'll be happy if I feel like I did my best."
Brousseau was joined by three other athletes on the U.S. Junior Freestyle team competing in the skicross. They are California residents Nico Monforte and Tyler Wallasch and Brant Crossan of Steamboat Springs, Colo. Crossan was the top American finisher, placing fifth. Wallasch finished 12th and Monforte skied to a 24th-placid result.
The junior world championships in Italy was scheduled to run from March 20 to 25 and include skicross and slopestyle.
Brousseau hopes his first trip to Europe leads to many more as he pursues an Olympic dream.
"Right now, skiing is my main focus," he said. "I really want to see how far I can go with it."