A natural progression for many experienced skiers, is freeriding — aka skiing on natural, ungroomed terrain. For those eager to get out on fresh powder, but aren’t sure where to start, Andrew McDonald, Sporting Life’s Senior Buyer for Bikes and Skis has some tips and gear suggestions on how to get ready for this thrilling style of skiing.
“Similar to beginners, get the right skis,” says Andrew. “You can’t go into deep snow with narrow waisted skis.” Another important detail to consider is safety. “Learn to use your avalanche protection equipment properly,” recommends Andrew.
When it comes to mountains in Canada to try freeride skiing, you’ll actually find there are quite a few, from Whistler Blackcomb and Banff National Park out west, to Mont Sainte-Anne and the Chic-Choc Mountains in Quebec. Andrew suggests saving money by trying out cat-skiing for a day. “Save your pennies. It’s worth it,” he says. “Revelstoke and Fernie are some good choices for cat-skiing.”
What about gear? When it comes to freeride gear, Andrew has tried these products out and knows a few people who have, too. Check them out below!
Andrew calls the Head Kore 93 ski, “A true do-anything ski. You can ski it on groomed and take it in the backcountry.” Featuring the brand’s new Kore construction, you’ll experience a more nimble freeride. The Topless Tech carbon weave adds rigidity where it’s needed, while the new topsheet shape increases durability. From powder to hard snow, this ski can do it all.
With its tailored titanal frame, the Volkl M6 Mantra Ski for 2022 has a newly designed body that adapts to the 3D Radius Sidecut concept. The ride quality is improved, as it’s noticeably lighter and has more control agility. Andrew says these are the skis he keeps at his parents’ house in Calgary, so he doesn’t have to pack any when he goes to visit.
These are the skis to use when you just want to have fun on the mountain, says Andrew. Featuring an AR75 sidewall designed to increase stability and provide more predictability as you carve down the hill, the 2.5 impact edge is made to resist breaking from whatever terrain it meets. With its Rocker-Camber-Rocker, you’ll be able to maintain flotation as you veer into backcountry.
An award-winning ski from Blizzard, the Rustler 11 is responsive and stable, yet playful in powder. What gives it its control and float, even on steep terrain, is the Carbon Flipcore with D.R.T Technology and its innovative waist concept. Andrew picks these when there’s tons of fresh powder. “When it’s a 25cm-plus fresh snow day,” he says. “Big mountain and big snow.”
“A do-anything light and playful ski,” says Andrew. The Salomon QST Lumen 99 ski combines the brand’s QST technology with a progressive freeride sidecut that can easily take you from powder to high-speed carving action.
A go-to helmet for skiers looking for the best possible protection, the Trooper 2Vi MIPS Helmet from Sweet Protection has high-performance helmet technology with a shock-absorbing liner and a multi-impact protection system to help reduce forces on the brain in the case of oblique impacts. Andrew calls this “flat out cool and doesn’t look like a space helmet on your head.”
The Oakley Flight Deck XM Prizm Snow Goggles offer an unrivaled view with their High Definition Optics® and 100% UV Protection. The rimless lens features an F3 anti-fog coating, a flexible O-Matter™ frame that conforms to your face for comfort and a lens sub-frame attachment for fast and easy lens changing. Andrew says these are the “best goggles ever!” and he just ordered new ones for his family for skiing in the Rockies Family Day long weekend.
You’ll be riding on the slopes in style wearing the Arc’teryx Men’s Beta AR Jacket. It has all of the features you want plus more, with its packable, breathable, and durable waterproof protection. Arc’teryx worked with Gore to develop GORE-TEX® PRO with Most Rugged Technology for maximum durability. Another important detail is the embedded RECCO® reflector to improve searchability in emergency situations.
Whatever terrain you plan to crush, the Rush Pant from Arc’teryx will provide you with durability and long-lasting protection thanks to the waterproof, windproof and breathable 3L GORE-TEX® PRO fabric. With side zips for ventilation, a removable and adjustable belt and Cordura PowderCuffs™ to keep out snow, you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.
Shop Andrew’s top picks for freeride and our full assortment in our Ski Shop, and remember to visit our in-store experts for a tune and boot fit. Sporting Life experts make up a big part of why it is the ultimate destination for ski and why it’s the official partner of Canada’s ski team!