Winter Skills = Winterstoke

Special thanks to Mountain Life friend Jeff Slack for contributing.

Spearhead Camp

Deep winter might be prime time for storm skiing, but seasoned mountain vets know that Spring is the best opportunity to tackle that big backcountry objective. And while Whistler may not be having a banner season, the mountains still have plenty to offer.

As Ross Berg, Head Guide at Squamish-based Altus Mountain Guides, states “I think we just need to look at this winter differently…the avalanche conditions have been very safe, the glaciers are in good shape, and the sun has been shining. Perfect for heading into the bigger mountains, ski mountaineering, and traverses… It’s still winter and we still have skiing and awesome adventures we can go on.”

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Spearhead Tourers

To keep the stoke alive, Altus is hosting its first ever Winterstoke Backcountry Festival this weekend, March 14th-15th. The festival consists of on-snow clinics for backcountry skiers and splitboarders led by certified mountain guides and highly accomplished local athletes. With eight different clinics, including “Intro to Splitboarding”, “Cliffs and Jumps”, “Steep Skiing” and “Crevasse Rescue” there will be something for everyone.

“These clinics are aimed at giving people some skills to be safe out in the backcountry and push their limits,” explains Berg. “These skills will be great for the rest of this spring [and beyond]. Plus, now is a good time to learn some new skills. It’s a lot harder to pull yourself away when the conditions are epic.”

Clinics are priced in the ski-bum friendly range of $50-$125 per person, and the social calendar is rounded out with an evening presentation at the Whistler Museum featuring local ski-mountaineering pros J.D. Hare and Holly Walker.

The mountains are moody and fickle. When everything lines up and you get stable pow, bluebird, and a good objective, it’s magic.

But only if you’re ready.

Couloir Hunting - Blackcomb backcountry

So instead of whining about the lack of snow or drooling over yet another Japanese GoPro edit, get out there, boost your skills, and kill it when the time comes.

With good coverage in the alpine, we’re one big storm away from our long-lost powder dreams becoming reality. Even if this never comes, remember, the mountains are far more likely to reveal their secrets to the prepared.

In the meantime, if you need some fuel to rekindle your stoke, here are some clips of Winterstoke guides getting after it on local peaks.

Here’s legendary extreme skier J.D. Hare putting down a first descent on Alpha Mountain in the Tantalus Range a few years back:

And here’s two-time Olympian and splitboard guide Justin Lamoureux riding some sweet couloirs in his Squamish backyard:


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  • By Jeff Slack