Disciplines > Freeride

Freeride

Freeride is the term given to skiing and snowboarding in natural, un-pisted (usually steep and sometimes rocky) terrain. The term freeride is allied with other words such as "Big Mountain" or "Extreme" which are largely used to describe the same activity. 

At freeride world class competition level skiers and boarders are judged on how well they ride a selected competition face. Outstanding performances involve a complex combination of creative line selection, technical off-piste riding and impressive air & style, all wrapped up into one seamless, fluid and fast run down an open extreme mountain face. It can be inspiring and jaw dropping to watch and very challenging but rewarding to compete and do well. Click here for a 60 second teaser video.

Scottish Freedom Series

Picture above is Dave Biggin on his winning run at the 2015 Coe Cup

Participating in freeride competition is within the reach of any skier or boarder experienced and competent in challenging offpiste conditions on steep terrain, but ranking highly involves so much more.

Below you will find a section on training and preparing for freeride competition, as well as information on:- 

  • How freeride fits into the whole backcountry scene
  • The freeride competition pathway
  • Training and preparing for freeride competition

Get in the comms loop... If you are interested in freeride from any perspective whether participating, getting involved at the lowest level or following our Scottish Athletes click here to be added to the news mailing list.

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves"

-Sir Edmund Hillary

 

How freeride fits into the wider topic of backcountry

Freeride is just one component of "Backcountry", a term used to loosely define all aspects of venturing out of patrolled ski areas and touring on foot, ski or snowboard into wild, unpisted and often remote snow covered locations. When in the backcountry a skier or snowboarder will inevitably have to ascend (UP), traverse (ACROSS) and descend (DOWN) terrain to get to their destination and these three components, the "UP" "ACROSS" and "DOWN" help us break down the different snowsports components of backcountry touring activity.

  • Ascending (THE UP) - Depending upon how extreme the ascent might be it could involve either:-
    • HIKING in boots, with or without crampons or snowshoes, with your equipment on your back.
    • SKINNING by putting natural or synthetic skins on the soles of your skis or snowboard so as to be able to slide across flat and up gentle inclines. Skinning requires special ski bindings that allow the heel of the boot to rise off the ski to facilitate a more natural walking motion and keep the skin constantly engaged with the snow. Skins cannot be used with a standard snowboard but can be used on a splitboard, which is a snowboard that splits down the middle (lengthways) to form two "skis". Splitboards have special bindings. (See short explanatory video)
    • CLIMBING with ropes, harnesses and carabinas etc
  • Traversing (THE ACROSS) - usually done by walking on foot or more commonly with skis on (with or without skins) and pushing with poles. It is impossible to do on a snowboard unless you have splitboard and poles. Every touring venture into the backcountry will inevitably involve a mix of climbing descending and traversing, and for many people, they are not looking for gnarly climbs or extreme descents but simply, a day out in the mountains enjoying the scenery company and touring around the mountains. Whilst skins are associated with the climbing component, for any touring excursion, crampons, snowshoes and skins will all greatly enhance your speed and safety.
  • Descending (THE DOWN) - This is where the term freeride becomes relevant and for many adventurous skiers and snowboarders the tour and ascent are simply a means to an end, which is freeriding down a specific challenging slope or gully in some far off remote location.

Whatever your backcountry preference there is lots to consider from a safety and skills perspective and we strongly urge anyone venturing into the backcountry to consider undertaking training on:-

  • Offpiste freeriding technique
  • Equipment (Rope Skills, Skins, Ice Axe, Crampons, Snowshoes, Transceiver etc etc)
  • Weather & Navigation
  • Avalanche Awareness and Rescue
  • First Aid
Training and preparing for freeride competition

To train and prepare for success in freeride competition, a rider will need to focus on 6 key ingredients:-

  1. The building of strength and athleticism
  2. Developing their technical skills in alpine skiing or snowboarding
  3. Developing their jumping skills and aerial awareness
  4. Building experience in all snow conditions (from powder to ice and everything in between)
  5. Increasing mountain safety awareness
  6. Developing an understanding of good line selection, freeride judging principles and the freeride competition scoring system

These skills come from immersing yourself in the correct environment to learn, and practice over a prolonged period of time. Do not kid yourself that a night off the razz, a coupe of youtube videos and a warm up run will cut it... To reach the top level a freeride athlete will require commitment to:-

  1. A supervised strength and conditioning programme + regular multi-sport activity
  2. An alpine skills training programme
  3. A freestyle skills training programme
  4. Regular time on task in the mountains in differing snow conditions
  5. Mountain safety training
  6. Homework and study line selection, scoring systems and tactical approaches to notching up points on different faces

Once athletes start to get more serious than occasional and casual competing they should also start to consider looking at lifestyle and nutrition considerations.

There are a number of clubs and organisations offering freeride specific training programmes. These include:-

  • British Freeride's Freeride Juniors
  • Glencoe Ski Club
  • Aberdeen Snowsports Club

To find out more about these clubs and programmes please use club finder tool on the "Get involved with a club" page

For further information on Freeride competition and the pathway, please contact Iain Ramsay-Clapham at Snowsport Scotland on 0131 625 4405

The freeride competition pathway

Freeride is currently a non olympic discipline, but like many emerging disciplines it does non the less offer world class international competition opportunities.

International Freeride competiton has been evolving over the last 20 years and the Freeride World Tour (FWT) is now recognised as the highest level international championship event for over 18's.

In Scotland the freeride competition pathway has been developing since 2012 and the top level Scottish Freeride Championship event for 18yrs + is the Scottish Freedom Series (SFS), run by Snowsport Scotland.

In Scotland the freeride competition pathway start at age 14 with the Junior Coe Cup. Top performing athletes from this event are then encouraged to engage in specific freeride coaching programmes and consider advancing to the international Junior Freeride Tour until they reach age 17 when they are eligible to enter senior events.

From age 17 competitors can compete in the Scottish Freedom Series (SFS) and once 18, and consistently ranking well in the SFS they are encouraged to progress to Freeride World Qualifiers and ultimately the Freeride World Tour.

 

THE SCOTTISH FREEDOM SERIES

The Scottish Freedom Series comprises 4 separate freeride competitions, held over three weekends, open to male and female skiers and boarders aged 18 and over. Each competition event is unique. The different venues, topography, snow and weather conditions all culminate in a series of events that differ greatly, offering competitors four very individual and exciting opportunities to participate.

  • Ben Lawers "The Lawers of Gravity"
  • Nevis Range "The Corrie Challenge"
  • Glencoe Mountain "The Coe Cup" (a Freeride World Qualifier FWQ event)
  • The Scottish Freedom Series Finals

At each competition winners are recognised and ranked and as well as winning trophies or prizes they are awarded overall "series points" based on their ranked position in their male/female, ski/board category. These points then accumulate as part of the official overall series totals and after the final event concludes the overall series rankings and champions can be determined.

SFS champions take home the annual recurring trophy for their category and then hold the accolade reigning top (male/female, ski/board) freeriders in the country, until the series once again concludes and finds new champions the following year.

All SFS events are open to male and female skiers and boarders aged 18yrs or older, plus up to five wildcard places are reserved for top riders in the 16 & 17 year old age group, who have been put forward by the British Freeride Junior Tour. For more information please visit www.freedomseries.co.uk.

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