We continually talk about freeriding and freeriders in our articles, mistakenly assuming that everyone knows what it's all about, but no one is born learned. It is for this reason that we have decided to write an article exclusively dedicated to explaining what the rebellious modality of skiing is all about. And it is that, despite the fact that it has been taken many times by skiers as "the trend to jump on the bandwagon", due to the great popularity that it has been acquiring over the last few years, this is not entirely true. . In other words, if what you were looking for was to be up to date, I'm sorry to tell you that freeride is the first ski modality that was carried out, although it was not recognized as such until the 70s. The first times that humans put on skis (totally different from today's skis), they did not see it as a sport, but as a mode of transport for which there were no blue, red or black slopes, snowparks or slaloms of no kind, but a mere blanket of snow.
THE FREERIDE IS…
So, what is freeride? Freeride is considered the modality of skiing or snowboarding that is practiced off-piste, advocating what its name indicates, “free”, freedom in English. Freeriders or riders, who practice it, must know the traditional ski technique very well and be in good physical shape, in addition to having experience in the mountains, since, in open powder snow fields there will be no signs warning or runway limits.
Freeriding can be practiced in many ways. On the one hand, we would find the most novel way: get out to the sides of the track (this is already off-piste, no one argues about it, and it's perfect for when you're starting out). On the other hand, we would also have the more elite format of freeride, a heliski. The most common of all modalities is the combination of skiing downhill with a ski touring ascent, that is, walking up with your boards on your back to the summits or descent areas of your choice, like a mountain tour . Although doing it from the ski resort where you are staying, if it gives you the possibilities due to its location and/or resources such as lifts from which to start, it is also a popular alternative.
Another of the difficulties of this modality is the continuous uncertainty and the risk that this implies, hence the importance of good technique, because you do not know in advance the type of obstacles nor its dimension; rest assured that there will be and not two or three.
THE DREAM TRIAD
Finally, we need to add one more element to complete the definition of freeride. At the moment we have mentioned that it is made up of: ski touring, to reach the area where we will put on our skis; the descent with the own skis; and finally, get around obstacles. In this way, tricks, jumps, etc; They are also part of this modality.
To practice this, it can be very useful to go and do some freestyle in a snowpark, nowadays most resorts have one.
HOW DO I LEARN FREERIDE?
You can learn freeride on your own, first trying descents close to the track or that you know are easy, and gradually increasing the difficulty. Another option is with the help of a freeride teacher. These types of monitors are usually in all ski schools and can help you progress more safely, since they will know the terrain through which they take you. Also, doesn't it sound much better to go with someone local who knows the most adrenaline-pumping descents? If you are more advanced in freeriding but it is the first time skiing on a specific mountain, you can also hire freerider guides, who will give you some tips but their main mission will be to discover the secrets of the area, and not both the technique itself.
It is very important to make it clear that the freerider will always be in better company . At the end of the day, let's not forget that we are going to submerge ourselves in the densities of the mountain and any unforeseen event can happen: accidents from an avalanche to a bad action that injures us or makes it impossible for us to finish the descent. If we don't have anyone to accompany us, this can be quite a sour experience to remember.
WHAT IS THE MOST SUITABLE EQUIPMENT FOR THE PRACTICE OF FREERIDE?
As you can already imagine, a good kit of boards, mask, boots , etc. is just as important, as it is to carry the necessary safety equipment. The danger we should be most aware of is the probability of avalanches, so it is important to check the weather information for the day and always carry safety equipment with us. About this, the type of boards and the rest of the equipment we tell you in detail in the article 5 things you should know to freeride safely. In it we talk about the importance of the ARVA, the ABS backpack, the shovel, the probe. basically all the material you need! Without forgetting the importance of including in our equipment a quality ski goggles and sports sunglasses for the touring sections.
TALKING ABOUT AVALANCHES…
Beyond avalanches, when we freeride we have to be cautious and be informed of knowing the numerology that the authorities use to refer to the degree of avalanche risk. This ranges from 1 to 5, being 1 the least dangerous and 5 the greatest . It is highly recommended to know this information about the area and the day in which we will ski off-piste. Just as it is also a good option, if we do not know the area, follow the routes for skiers that have indications (we are not referring to slopes) and, if nothing else, take care of the mountain as lovers of it. This means that we must respect the environment and the ecosystem in which we enter, and all the animals that live in it, of course.
THE BEST DESCENTS IN THE WORLD
The first place that we are going to introduce you to is the flagship for the slogan “Easy up, wild down”, the mecca of freeriding: the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn. What it means in Spanish would be something like that we look for an easy climb, with a wild descent; It doesn't sound so melodic but the feeling and the desire that they transmit to us are the same. This one is located in Austria and, together with Verbier and Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in the Alps, are vying for the title of freerider's paradise.
On the other hand, if you are looking for one close to home, Baqueira will quickly come to mind, because this mountainous location in Valle d'Aran is classified as one of the best destinations. Others that catch us next door are: Pic du Midi, also in the Pyrenees but this time on the French side, and La Grave, in this case on the Alpine side.
Before we leave Europe, we cannot fail to mention Lofoten, in Norway, and Andermatt and Engelberg, in Switzerland.
We jumped the pond to go to Canada, to Revelstoke, and well, since we're on this side of the world, we can take a couple of flights and enjoy Jakson Hole ( Wyoming) and Haines (Alaska).
What do we want to continue exploring the world? Well, to finish we leave you a very exotic destination, Las Leñas, in Argentina; although if you are more of extreme adventures go to Niseko, on the Japanese island of Hoakkaido (hint: from the same lift you can already go to off-piste areas, screw ski touring for once! )
WHAT IS A FREERIDE?
Freeride is the modality of skiing and snowboarding that is done off-piste.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FREERIDE AND THE FREESTYLE?
Freestyle is a modality focused on doing tricks or tricks, it is practiced in a snowpark. On the other hand, freeride is skiing off-piste and, although they do incorporate jumps in their descents, it is not the main objective of this.
IS THE FREERIDE DANGEROUS?
Freeriding must be done when the technique is controlled, you must handle yourself on the track to be able to function outside of it (just like running, we must first learn to walk). For your practice we must be careful with avalanches as the main danger, but it is essential to be very attentive and avoid or jump well the obstacles of the descent, since these also pose a danger.
WHAT IS THE MOST SUITABLE EQUIPMENT FOR THE PRACTICE OF FREERIDE?
The most suitable material for freeriding is specified in the article 5 things you should know to freeride safely. In it you will find the most important materials, as well as more key information that will help you enter the world of freeride with, at least, all the theoretical base learned. Then all that remains is for you to jump into experiencing the physical part!
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO DO FREERIDE?
The mecca of freeride is Verbier in Austria or areas of Canada like Revelstoke, but if we are looking for something closer, Baqueira is among the best destinations to practice off-piste.
HOW TO LEARN FREERIDE?
You can learn freeriding either on your own or by hiring a freerider teacher.