Learning to Ski Steeps with “Extremely Canadian”

This year myself and Spring at Pebbleshoo have set ourselves the goal of training and educating ourselves a lot more in regards to the activities we’re interested in.

Being honest it has felt like our ski game has been stuck in 2nd gear for a while now. We both took an intro to skiing a few years ago, learning how to do a downhill wedge and ski bunny hills but apart from that we’ve been simply trying to teach ourselves the proper technique.

It hasn’t worked.

So recently we had the opportunity to take a 2 day Steep Skiing Clinic with Extremely Canadian out of Whistler. Our expectations with this clinic were to go from being cautious skiers capable of linking a few turns down black diamond runs to feeling confident on double black diamonds and skiing more fluidly and aggressively.

Day 1:

Our Mettle was really tested on the first day. It was awesome! It was a slow progression through the day of skiing steeper and steeper snow.

First, after meeting our guides at the Whistler Base, we did a warmup ski run so our instructors could determine our competency and expectations.

After watching our ski form we were split into groups and myself, Spring and two others were assigned to Extremely Canadian guide Peter.

Follow the Red Jacket

Follow the Red Jacket

First up we did some laps on a groomed blue run so Peter could watch us and give us advice on how to improve our form.

For balance we practiced picking our uphill ski off the snow while we completed a turn. I found this incredibly helpful right away and realized my balance was all wrong. Peter was great with giving individual advice to each of us to help us iron out our own specific issues.

Next we practiced pole planting form. Something we’ve been sorely neglecting and it was definitely needed.

From there, after warming up and some guidance, we cranked it up a notch and hit our first black diamond run, Whistler Bowl. We’d never skied it before but Peter was great with getting us into it safely.

Skiing Moguls, but not as we knew it

We did a few laps of Whistler Bowl, working on a few different techniques while getting used to the steeper angle. One of the techniques that stood out for me was skiing on top of moguls rather than between them. I was so focused before on trying to stay in the runnels between the moguls that I’d never thought to just ski the bumps on top of the moguls.

Getting some instruction on how to improve our skiing

Getting some instruction on how to improve our skiing

The rest of the day was a mix of exploring the various bowls on Whistler Mountain and skiing steep stuff that I’d never have attempted by myself. Later in the day Peter videoed us skiing down a run as we tried to implement what we’d been taught that day. Afterwards we went into a little cabin on the mountain to watch this video. I found this excellent also. Peter gave us all individual feedback about our form with some tips to help improve it.

By the end of the first day I felt my skiing had vastly improved, but more than that I had a clear picture in my mind of what I needed to work on to get better. I was left stoked for our second day and where we’d be taken next.

Yawning, not from boredom, but from being completely spent. Full Value Day!

Yawning, not from boredom, but from being completely spent. Full Value Day!

Day 2:

After our excellent first day it was hard to imagine how our second day could get any better.

We met up at the same time at the Whistler Base but today we’d be taking the Excalibur Gondola over to Blackcomb Mountain. For most locals, Blackcomb is their Mountain, and there is definitely something about it that just feels a little wilder and less tamed than Whistler Mountain.

At the top of the Blackcomb Glacier Hike

At the top of the Blackcomb Glacier Hike

As we headed up the mountain, my legs still a little worked from the previous day, I wondered if this might be a cool down day with easier skiing than the day before.

Hours later, as I stood at the top of the double black diamond ski line “Double Rubble”, the ground beneath my skis bearing the distinct colour of ice I realized that this had not been a cool down day at all!

They knew my limit better than I knew it myself

The day started with a few warm up laps on some easier blue runs to work on our carving and speed. Next Peter introduced us to Speiss turns, something I’d never heard of before but quickly came to enjoy.

It’s a drill to link consecutive hop turns down the ski run. It really takes coordination, balance and good leg strength. As Peter effortlessly linked consecutive jump turns down the slope we all followed with varying degrees of success.

Not only is it a really good warm up for the legs but it jogs the mind quickly back into finding balance on the skis again. I try to do a few of these Speiss turns each time I head out on skis now.

Peter videoed us doing these jump turns and then we went to a small Hut to watch ourselves on a TV. Like the previous day he gave us pointers on our form. I found these video breaks really helpful and a great use of time. It felt like every minute of our day was being utilized to give us maximum value.

But we're not Experts!

But we’re not Experts!

After that it was a slow progression of ramping up the difficulty again. Before I knew it, we were passing Double Black Diamond signs that read “Experts Only” at the top of Spankys Ladder, traversing steep slopes with cliffs below, navigating complex terrain and then, suddenly, I was looking down the steep chute called “Double Rubble”.

The constant progression maximized how far I grew as a Skier

The funny thing about this moment was that if I’d been here two days prior I would have been blacking out from the adrenaline. But today, after two days of almost surgical guidance, tuning how I skied, getting consistent feedback on my form, about what I was improving and what I still had to focus on, I felt capable of this.

Looking back on the Blackcomb Glacier

Looking back on the Blackcomb Glacier

Peter was below me on the slope, ready to catch me should I hesitate and fall. But I wasn’t going to fall, I initiated that first turn and felt weightless for a moment, then I linked the next turn and kept going, the snow quality getting better and better as I descended.

Spring skiing slopes steeper than anything she had skied before.

Spring skiing slopes steeper than anything she had skied before.

I met up with another member of our group at the bottom and let out a holler. Exhilaration! As the last in our group descended Peter asked him “Well, how was that?”, he replied “Amazing, it felt like a real accomplishment”. I couldn’t agree more.

We finished our day by descending down to the Blackcomb Base for complimentary Apres of Nachos and Beer at Merlin’s Bar & Grill with all the Guides and Guests. A perfect way to end our two days.

Apres at Merlin's! Drink up!

Apres at Merlin’s! Drink up!

Everyone was smiling. All in all a fantastic experience. I will be applying the skills I learned during those two days for many decades to come.

If you’re looking to really improve your skiing technique, test your limits or you’re new to Whistler/Blackcomb and want to be shown all the spots that the locals love then take this 2 Day Steep Skiing Clinic. We came away from it feeling like completely different and improved skiers.

Information:

Website: Extremely Canadian
Instagram: instagram.com/extremelycanadian
Facebook: facebook.com/ExtremelyCanadian
Town: Whistler
Resort: Whistler Blackcomb

Video:

Author: Leigh McClurg

I grew up in County Dublin, Ireland and moved to British Columbia, Canada with my wife in 2010. I fell in love with being in the Backcountry and Mountains that are all around me here and try to spend all of my free time exploring those wild places. My main goals are to chase happiness, see as much of this planet and its cultures as possible and grow every day through knowledge and experiences.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ll be starting my second season as a skiier, and I’m so stoked to work on my technique this year! I’ve only been on skis a handful of times but knowing how to snowboard and skate have made the transition relatively easy. I’m mostly self-taught so I’m looking forward to taking lessons this year to work on my form. I can’t wait until I can hit double blacks like it’s nobody’s business!

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    • Yeah, knowledge with snowboarding would definitely help. The biggest factor that holds back adults is commitment to the line and feeling comfortable with acceleration. If you already have this then skiing steeps will feel like second nature.

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