Big mountain skiing, big lines, chutes, and hang time in the air comprise freeskiing off the groomed corduroy. Popularity is growing for skiers to break out of the traditional confines of pampered resort runs and bumped up mogul fields; more skiers are learning to strut their stuff in the wilds of what nature offers.
Ski schools in British Columbia have added freeskiing to their menus to answer the demand for skiing glades and bowls, both inbounds and out of bounds. Most clinics are geared to advanced and upper intermediate skiers who are ready for the adventure of dodging obstacles, hopping small drops, and floating their boards down whatever pitch comes their way. Most are open to experts, too, just seeking to hone skills.
Whistler Blackcomb's Ski and Board School teams up with Extremely Canadian for two-day freeskiing clinics on Whistler Mountain. Each week, the clinics starting on Saturdays, Mondays, and Thursdays guide small groups of 3-5 people into the off piste to build confidence skiing the mountain's nooks. The clinics have perks, too. You get lift-line priority, a T-shirt, video analysis, and a post-ski brag session at Merlin's Bar and Grill. The program costs $399. Call (800) 938-9656 to make reservations.
Fernie Alpine Resort, located on the opposite side of the province, is the place to go to learn to freeski with a snorkel. The resort stacked up 37 feet of snow last year and maintains the one of the biggest Canadian avalanche programs in proof of their powder! The resort is the perfect playground for freeskier wannabees to learn to ski the ocean of snow in its Steep and Deep Camps. Two-day sessions, costing $289 per person, start on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays exploring glades and chutes in the resort's five big bowls. Class ratios are capped at six guests per one coach. Call (250) 423-6644 for reservations.
Many other B.C. resorts offer lessons to refine off piste skiing techniques, too. But two resorts in the Canadian Rockies amped up their instructional programs to target freeskiers trying to make that leap into avalanche terrain, whether it be inbounds or outside resort boundary lines.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort revamped their ski and snowboard school to equip skiers and riders with the skills for freeskiing. Their new Big Mountain Centre offers private guiding and instruction using the mountain's reputation for Canadian Rockies powder stashes. Programs include avalanche training and snow safety instruction, too.
A one-day shot with a guide costs $499, but you can bring along five of your friends. More intensive sessions in the off piste, however, offer a chance to build a better skill base. Their Big Mountain Challenge program includes four consecutive half days of instruction with a maximum of six per group at $499 per person. At the same price, you also can get three full days in the Phat Kamp, which includes a pair of rental fatties for floating through the deep powder. Their Real Deal ups the learning curve faster with five full days and a maximum of four per group at $749 per person.
Those with the freeskiing skills who just need to learn to use a beacon for backcountry safety can pick up a short 2.5-hour avalanche transceiver and probe instruction session for $79. Call (866) SKI-KICK to make reservations with their Big Mountain Centre.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort, known for its lift-, cat-, and heli-accessed skiing, provides the best program suited to making the leap from frontcountry lift-assisted skiing into the big wilds of the backcountry. The three-day programs, costing $468 - $868 per person, depending on the number of participants, start with the first two days inbounds to develop the freeskiing skills for heading into cat-skiing, heli-skiing, or the backcountry. On the third day, you'll learn how to use an avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel before heading out into the backcountry with skins and touring bindings to see what big mountain freeskiing is all about.
The resort also runs their one-day Cat/Heli prep program targeting intermediate skiers. You'll learn freeskiing techniques such as how to ski the spaces through trees and drop off small ledges in preparation for your cat-skiing or heli-skiing tour. The program costs $78 per person and requires four guests minimum. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information,
Get back closer to nature by improving your skills. It's the best way to build confidence for freeskiers.