What is Freeride Skiing?

Cori Gramms
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Going Off-Piste

The sport of snowboarding doesn’t come with any formal definition; it’s basically a consensus of ideas. To some people, being a snowboarder means being a part of a group of people who shred the white stuff, talk about equipment, watch the snowboard videos, and support each other. To others, snowboarding is a sport that requires physical prowess, brawn, and dexterity.

And then there are the people who push the limits of the sport. They get better, faster, and stronger by going off-piste, away from the crowds and the ski slopes, and breaking the boundaries that others have set long ago. For these freeriders, the sport of snowboarding is an evolving experience, a cathartic journey against the normal side of life, where they find answers and experience raw beauty.

Snowboarding is not only about riding the mountain. This is what freeriders like the most about the sport. They get to travel different mountains, see places, meet new people, and meet nature in all its glory. But, as you might have already guessed it, freeriding doesn’t come without dangers. So if you’re going to do it, you want to do it right. Luckily for you, we’re here to help.

A Good Place to Start

Freeride skiing is a style of skiing that combines many of the technical disciplines of alpine ski racing and scuba diving without the races. It spawned from the snowboard revolution of the 1990s, a movement that changed the way skiers looked at the sport and their equipment.

Freeride skiing has been around in the United States for almost as long as the sport of skiing itself. However, the lack of popularity of extreme skiing or skiing in general, has made freeride skiing a niche market.

The term “freeride” is synonymous with extreme, or downhill skiing. The style is also known as technical skiing.

Today, freeride skiing encompasses many styles. However, all the disciplines share a common thread. All technical freeride skiing includes skiing in treacherous conditions and taking advantage of the snowboarding-style features often found in the back country.

Also known as extreme skiing, freeride ski is primarily about turning, and rarely about speed.

Freeride skiing can be incredibly challenging because of the wide variety of situations a freerider might encounter. They might encounter rocks, cliffs, tree wells and other obstacles that are a result of natural terrain or avalanches. Freeriders have to negotiate through these obstacles, and still make precise turns as if they had no obstacles.

Built for Freedom

Freeriding Through the Ages

Few things compare to the exhilaration of freeriding.

Busting wide open down a backcountry slope, skis carving the snow as you slice through lines of powder, the sun warming your cheeks.

Those golden moments endure as memories of freedom, exploration, and discovery.

And the mission to go where skis haven’t been skied before goes back just as far as skiing itself. Back to when skis were used not for racing but for getting from place to place in the most efficient way. ‘Skating’ was the buzz term for skiing at the time – you’d use one ski as a push ski while the other was the riding ski; hence ‘Skating with the gods’. They’d often set up as many gates as possible in a long downhill, meandering down the terrain like a maze, and then skiers would take their best shot at the gates. Not always the most efficient route; just the most fun. Envision it as the precursor to moto-x, had the element of trail building been prominent.

Avalanche Awareness

The growing popularity of freeride skiing has led to a growing awareness of the dangers it exposes people to. Avalanche awareness courses are very popular amongst ski and snowboard instructors, as well as with private guides.

As the industry has grown, the variety of courses has grown. Some are specifically designed for hikers and others are designed for ski patrols or volunteers working in ski resorts.

As a general rule, all skiers and snowboarders need to be aware of avalanche dangers when choosing a route and skiing in a group.

The most recommended avalanche awareness courses are for beginners, and the course should last at least 2 days and ideally 3 days.

Final Words

Freeriding, as skiing has been a pastime for ages, is nothing more than the art of enjoying snow and mountains with your own means of transport. Freeriding distances itself from ski lifts and alpine lodges and presents itself as a vigorous activity, which, unlike racing, lies in the very centre of leisure, enjoyment, freedom and creativity.

When you ski across the mountains without any restrictions you are free, free from duties, free from planning, free to choose your own lines and meaning of the day. You can try something new, you can concentrate your efforts on a specific feature of the terrain, you can ski your own program or you can explore. That’s the versatile beauty of the freeride skiing.