Competitive Disciplines > 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 further information on:- 

  • The Freeride Discipline (and its place in backcountry skiing)
  • The Freeride Pathway and Learning Framework (Training and Preparing for competition)
  • Freeride Competitions

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


Understanding the Freeride Discipline

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

Snowsport Scotland is working closely with Glenmore Lodge, the National Outdoor Centre, to shape a set of backcountry safety training modules that cover these areas. These training modules will be launches throughout 2018 and will ultimately form part of the Snowsport Scotland Qualifications and awards portfolio.

Freeride Pathway and Learning Framework



To train and prepare for success in freeride competition, a rider will need to develop skills and knowledge in the 5 judged components of a competitive freeride run, namely:-

  • Line Choice
  • Fluidity
  • Air and Style
  • Technique
  • Control

In addition a rider will need to develop physical strength, movement literacy and athleticism as well as safety skills and a knowledge of freeride judging and scoring systems.



Working with top freeride performance coaches, Snowsport Scotland has developed a learning framework for all freeriders to use to self-assess their skills and knowledge, and monitor/track their progression and improvement.

The framework combines the 5 judged components (above) with other necessary knowledge and skills into 6 CORE ELEMENTS which the rider can track. It is designed to promote autonomous, self-motivated learning, which can be dovetailed with a structured, coached training programme where this is available. 


  S&C               TECH               LINE               AIR                  SAFETY         LIFESTYLE

  • S&C - Strength & conditioning, movement literacy and athleticism
  • TECH - Technical skills and control in alpine skiing or snowboarding in all snow conditions (from powder to ice and everything in between) 
  • LINE: Line selection skills, knowledge of freeride judging principles and the freeride competition scoring systems.
  • AIR: Jumping skills and aerial awareness on drops up to 8 or 9 metres in height
  • SAFETY: Mountain safety skills, and Psychological management in extreme environments
  • LIFESTYLE: An awareness & understanding of lifestyle, nutrition and sleep choices on performance

View the SSS Freeride Learning Framework



The following organisations deliver freeride training programmes that utilise and align to the Snowsport Scotland freeride learnng framework.  

  • British Freeride
  • Aberdeen Snowsports Club

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

Freeride Competitions

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 starts 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 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

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