AUBURN — James “JJ” Jackson will be the first skier to crack a joke on the way up the mountain. He’ll be the life of the party before a big race, and he’d be the last Edward Little skier you’d pick out of a crowd to be the “serious” one in the group.

Until race time.

Then, he’ll just be the first one down the hill. By a mile.

“He can be goofing around at the start, and then totally put on his game face,” EL coach Tara Eretzian said. “He knows how to work, he knows when to turn it on and when to turn it off.”

For three years, Jackson has flipped the switch from serious to fun and back again for the Eddies, and for three years, he’s been one of the more dominant skiers in Class A ski racing.

With one more crack at the sport’s ultimate personal achievement at this week’s Class A state ski meet, Jackson has the switch set back to serious one more time.

“These last two races, these are the races I’ve been looking forward to all year,” Jackson said. “I haven’t done as well as I’d wanted to the last two years, so this year, I want to make things different.”

Jackson joined the EL team as a sophomore, having given Carrabasset Valley Academy a try as a freshman.

“My freshman year was more like a trial year, I only went there for about five months,” Jackson said. “When I was there, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to play my other two sports. And it was a lot of traveling, and I didn’t want to spend four years of high school on the road during the winter.”

CVA’s loss was Edward Little’s gain. Jackson joined an already-solid group of skiers, and contributed immediately, earning top-six finishes at the Class A state meet in both the giant slalom and slalom as a sophomore.

“I was excited, but I wanted to wait to see him here first before getting too excited,” Eretzian said. “I want to know for sure, and then be able to count on him. When I saw he was actually here, it was a feeling of, ‘Yay, this is awesome.'”

And his assimilation to the squad was seamless, thanks to the team’s laid-back attitude.

“High school racing is a whole different atmosphere,” Jackson said. “It’s not as tense, it’s a lot more fun. And I had to adjust to it. Our team was really good, and we had a lot of fun that year. It was a whole new experience.”

Last year, after a podium finish in the GS, Jackson fell during his first slalom run. His second run was the day’s fastest. he’d come that close.

“I think that second run, it made people realize how fast he could have been,” Eretzian said. “It left a lasting impression in everyone else’s mind.”

The finish also added a renewes drive to Jackson’s training.

“He works the hardest at training,” Eretzian said. “Some people might not think he’s working hard, because he’s taking fewer runs than some others, but every run he takes is 100 percent.

“He knows about his body as it relates to his skiing, he’s very cognitive about that,” Eretzian added. “Coaching him is awesome, because I can look at him and ask, ‘OK, what’d you do wrong there?’ And he can tell me.”

This season, even Jackson admitted he’s skied “incredibly well.”

But the sundae’s only worth it with the cherry on top.

“He’s really had that feeling all year, that he can go out and win one this year,” Eretzian said. “He told me at the beginning, ‘Coach, I’m going to be a champion. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know if I wanted him to be thinking that way right away. But it’s true. He works hard, he knows what he needs to do.”

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