In a conventional sense, skiing is done within the boundaries of ski resorts, on dedicated and groomed courses color-coded according to difficulty levels and patrolled by ski patrol.
Freeride skiing is where people go beyond those dedicated and groomed courses and ski on open terrain without set courses, goals, or rules. It is said to be the purest form of skiing, and more and more people are getting into it.
To reach untouched powder snow and explore the mountain away from crowds, free-riders use the ski resort elevation means and may combine this with a short hike uphill using skis or snowshoes.
Freeride skiing can be more adventurous and thrilling, but one has to be well-prepared before getting into it, or one would perish in the most brutal forces of nature.
In this ultimate guide, I’ll go through what is freeride skiing and why it is awesome, and give you a number of tips to stay safe if you plan on free riding this season.
What Makes Freeride Skiing So Appealing?
Certain aspects of freeride skiing make it so uniquely appealing and more and more people are getting into it. Here are some of the reasons why it’s so good:
Ski resorts can get swarming with people during the ski season. For those who like to get away from the crowd and have some enjoyable alone time in nature, freeride skiing is a great choice.
Freeride skiing allows them to be themselves and enjoy the snow-covered and pristine hill country with fresh air.
More Thrilling Ski Experience
One of the most appealing aspects of freeride skiing is the thrill that the skiers get to experience.
Skiing in ungroomed and unmarked open terrain and being alone in such a vast landscape far from civilization while being exposed to the brute forces of nature can provide such an adrenaline rush.
The ability of freeride skiing to push the skiers to their very limits is another reason for its increasing popularity.
Skiing in open terrain covered in fresh powder snow demands such technical finesse from the skiers and staying safe from harsh weather and possible natural disasters just makes it even more challenging.
Tips For Safe And Enjoyable Freeride Skiing
Skiing is an extreme sport, freeride skiing is even more so. Going about it in the wrong way can be dangerous and take all the joy out of it.
Let’s have a look at how one must prepare oneself for a safe and fun freeride ski experience. And make sure you have ski insurance with helicopter rescue just in case.
Make sure you have the endurance, muscle strength, flexibility, and agility to ski down steep hills for longer durations at higher altitudes in freezing temperatures.
Technical Mastery And Skiing Experience
Good skiing skills and some prior off-piste or backcountry skiing experience are prerequisites for freeride skiers.
Learning the proper technique for skiing in powder snow is vital when you’re in a freeride area. When skiing on powder snow, different actions are needed than when skiing on groomed slopes.
Snow Condition And Stability
Before entering the terrain for freeride skiing, it is important to thoroughly examine the snow conditions and snow stability. Snow stability is essential to determining the risk of avalanches.
Also read our guide on skiing in powder vs groomed runs.
Snow conditions can vary greatly and are influenced by several variables, including snowfall, temperature, wind, and the amount of snow on the ground.
The finest kind of snow for freeriding is thick powder snow, which can be found after several days of heavy snowfall in a cold, windless environment.
Pay Attention To Weather And Other Environmental Factors
Find out about avalanches, the environment, snow, and how to maneuver in various terrains. Learn about snow, weather, conditions, and other topics by enrolling in avalanche courses.
Go on unfamiliar ground with additional caution and always be careful. Consider the weather, pay attention to your surroundings, and never disregard a warning.
Use Proper Gear And Clothing
You must equip yourself accordingly before embarking on a freeride ski adventure.
You must use a good ski helmet, a pair of ski goggles with good filtration and visibility, properly fitting ski boots with the right flex, freeride skis, and avalanche safety gear.
Freeride skis are specially designed for skiing in ungroomed terrain. Read how they differ from your average mountain skis here.
They are much wider to deliver the weight of the skier on as big an area as possible. The long, elevated shovel, the prominent rocker, the generally rather low preload, and the relatively light weight of the materials used assist the freeride ski’s “floating” quality.
Aside from these common traits of freeride skis, there are many variations among the many models: some are relatively smooth-running and designed for long, fast descents, while others are considerably more nimble and allow for tricks and fun in the terrain.
Others are a little heavier and have a little better edge grip in case you do need to ski down a challenging slope. Some are a little lighter and even better for climbing.
Dress in layers that protect you from freezing temperatures and wick out moisture from your body effectively.
Never Go Alone
Freeride skiing is not an activity to be done solo. You must never ski alone on that remote and open terrain without anyone within proximity to help you in an emergency.
Always have a ski buddy or a few of them when you go freeride skiing. Read why skiing alone is dangerous here.
Avalanche Safety Gear
It is a must to equip yourself to be protected from avalanches when you are on a freeride ski adventure.
An avalanche transceiver is a portable radio transmitter and receiver built together to use for communication in avalanche emergencies. The idea here is that the avalanche transceiver, which is worn under clothing, must constantly be turned on and in transmitter mode.
All avalanche transceivers interact with one another using signals on the 457kHz frequency, regardless of the manufacturer or model. Even though they may be simple to use, they do require some practice.
An ABS back is a safety accessory with an airbag that inflates upon impact, minimizing the risk of being buried in the snow or getting injured in an avalanche.
Probe: An avalanche victim’s precise location and depth can be determined using a probe.
Shovel: Digging avalanche victims out of the snow requires a shovel.
Ski routes are defined, secured descents that are not groomed. These descents are perfect for learning freeriding because the risks in the mountains are comparable to those on groomed slopes.
Secured ski trails can now be found in many ski resorts; they are shown on resort maps by dashed yellow or red lines.
Get Yourself A Guide
If you lack prior experience off the piste, it would be wise to hire a licensed guide. Additionally, if you are unfamiliar with the area, it is strongly advised.
A guide will assist you in honing your freeride skills, offer insightful knowledge about the terrain, evaluate the weather and snow conditions, and determine the safest course of action for your powder ride.
Skiing in the “freeride” fashion, which has no predetermined course, objectives, or rules, is done on undeveloped, naturally sloped terrain.
Anybody who wishes to try freeride skiing must be physically fit, have plenty of experience in conventional forms of skiing, specially off-piste and backcountry, and master the techniques of skiing in powder snow.
It is imperative that freeride skiing is not done solo, and all beginner freeriders get a qualified guide to help them.
All freeride skiers must equip themselves with proper ski helmets, Goggles, gloves, freeride skis, proper layering of clothes, and avalanche safety equipment. Freeride skiers must also be mindful of snow conditions and stability as well as weather for safe skiing.