words :: Ben Osborne photography :: Craig Barker
Back in the year 2000, three-year-old Tom Peiffer was not sold on the idea of having his frozen toes crammed into vice-tight plastic ski boots for eight hours a day. Thankfully, the rest of the family coerced him and at the end of that season neither Tom, nor his twin brother Liam, could be peeled off the ski hill before the chairs stopped spinning. Almost 20 years later, the brothers are alumni of the Whistler Freeride Club, and both are competing in the 2019 World Freeride Tour.
“When I first found out, I was incredibly stoked because that was a childhood dream,“ says Liam. “When the excitement wore off, I realized what I was actually going be doing and I got pretty nervous. I haven’t felt so nervous and excited at the same time since I lost my virginity.”
The Peiffer boys were born into a ski family with a pedigree of instructors, patrollers, Olympic athletes and general ski fanatics. Whether they loved ski boots or not was beside the point, the boys were born to be on snow. They also established a healthy competitive spirit with each other early on.
“They had their own language when they were babies,” recalls mother Sharon DuGuid. “They would encourage each other to escape from their cribs.”
When Liam and Tom were just one-and-half, Sharon and her husband Andy would ski with them strapped to their backs in Alta, Utah, where Andy worked as a ski patrol doctor. By age four, the twins were skiing as many days as possible. When the family relocated to Switzerland in 1997, Tom and Liam—aged 10 at the time, truly solidified their connection to the mountains.
“Skiing was a huge part of our parent’s life, so naturally they taught us to ski,” Liam says. “In Switzerland, we had a god-awful racing coach who never let us ski pow. One day we just got sick of it and quit racing to go ski pow, and we’ve loved it ever since.”
When Sharon’s job beckoned her back to her hometown of West Vancouver, the family was relieved to get away from the uptight European racing culture and enjoy Whistler’s famously deep snowpack. The boys quickly enrolled in Whistler Adventure School, eventually finding the Whistler Freeride Club. Things went downhill quickly (and off cliffs, through chutes, and into all kinds of incredible powder). Head coach Derek Foose saw potential and encouraged the Peiffers to enter some freeride competitions. Liam earned a spot on the Junior Freeride Tour in 2015, with Tom just missing the cut.
“That was hard,” recalls Sharon. “Tom was a great skier, but he would let his head take over.” The brotherly competitive spirit established in the crib soon took hold and it wasn’t long until Tom and Liam were sharing podiums across North America. One day in April 2018, Whistler freeride coach and freeski legend Jen Ashton texted Sharon with the news—Liam and Tom had made the Freeride World Tour, the pinnacle of freeride competition with stops around the globe.
At press time, Tom was coming off a third place finish in the Hakuba, Japan stop of the Freeride World Tour, with Liam putting down a solid run for a 13th place finish. More importantly, both skiers looked right at home on the big stage against stiff competition, including Hakuba winner Marcus Eder and freeride legend Tanner Hall. The second event returns to BC at Kicking Horse. After that, they’re off to Austria, Andorra and—if they ski well enough, the brothers will return to their roots and compete in the grand finale of the Freeride World Tour: the iconic Verbier Xtreme in Switzerland.
The competitive spirit of their youth has waned, with both Peiffer brothers focusing solely on their own skiing. “The biggest goal is to qualify for finals in Verbier, and earn a spot on the tour for next year,” Tom says. “And of course, bring home some hardware.”