Why I Backcountry Ski and Freeski: The Fine Line Between Fear and Courage

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Why I Backcountry Ski and Freeski: The Fine Line Between Fear and Courage

“I’ve found that most backcountry skiers are explorers, in spirit and in fact.”


I first stepped into a pair of skis when I was 10 years old at Mount Washington in British Columbia. I owe that moment to my parents, who wanted to provide an experience that would get the family outside, playing together. I rode a pair of rental skis that took me down the mountain as fast as my snow plow stance would possibly allow me to go.

Now, 25 years later, skiing has become more than just a pastime; it’s a way of life that defines many aspects of my routine and my identity. It’s because of skiing that I’ve travelled the world, experienced different cultures and gained a greater perspective on our planet. I feel very privileged to enjoy these new experiences and to have the opportunity to connect with like-minded people around the world.

I’ve found that most backcountry skiers are explorers, in spirit and in fact. Most days we’re out there, we’re seeking remote locations with new conditions and new challenges. We’re constantly looking for the next spot that will allow us to access an experience unlike any other. It’s this pursuit of novelty and pure adventure that drive us to the slopes every year.

I love that skiing continues to push me, both physically and personally, to overcome fear and to push the limits of what I think is possible for myself. I enjoy walking the fine line between fear and courage when I ski a big line or land a challenging trick, because it forces me to take a deeper look at myself and to consider what motivates me, as an athlete and as an individual.


“We’re constantly looking for the next spot that will allow us to access an experience unlike any other.”


The most memorable run I’ve had so far was my first time going heli-skiing while in Bella Coola, British Columbia. I remember getting dropped off on a knife-edge ridge and being totally gripped by the conditions. This particular run had a rollover that didn’t allow me to see much more than two or three turns ahead before disappearing into the unknown. This was the first time I had to push through a significant amount of fear. I had to trust that I knew exactly where to make each turn in order to make it to the bottom of that mountain safely. I’ll admit that I let out a primal type scream once I finally made it to the bottom of that line.

The sport of skiing is all about those moments of surprise — the instances of immense satisfaction when you access something on the mountain that you’ve never experienced before. Every day you’re out there, you can push yourself to the next level. Even a beginner going down the bunny slope is probably going faster than they’ve ever been on skis. This experience of constant improvement and consistent thrill (regardless of skill level) is unique.


“I’ll admit that I let out a primal type scream once I finally made it to the bottom of that line.”


Today, I love getting into the backcountry because of the silence, beauty and endless possibility. It’s truly an awe-inspiring experience being in and amongst big mountains in the backcountry. Some of my favorite spots are in Alaska, British Columbia and Japan.

These locations all receive an amazing amount snow and, in the end, that’s what makes me really happy: to be in the mountains and on my skis.

First skiing idol: Scot Schmidt
Three essentials for a perfect day: Skis, friends and an open mind
Favorite backcountry spots: Japan, British Columbia and Alaska
How he gears up: It’s all about layering
Mountains are like… A blank canvas open to your interpretation

— As told to Erica Bellman

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