Who better to ask what are the best freeride ski destinations worldwide than an ex pro skier who competed on the freeride tours? Read on to find out the top spots to get your off piste and backcountry thrills according to extreme skier Rachel Findler.
A few years ago Rachel was a professional skier sponsored by Faction Skis and other brands. She travelled the world skiing the best powder, gnarliest terrain and biggest lines. So we were pretty stoked when she agreed to share her 10 favourite destinations to freeride.
This top 10 is based on Rachel’s experience and only includes destinations she has skied. In her own words:
10 best freeride ski destinations worldwide
Most resorts you visit will have some amazing freeriding terrain. But after travelling the world for freeride competitions, filming and photoshoots there are some places that stand out from the crowd. Here are my top 10 destinations to freeride.
Red Mountain, BC, Canada:
Home to the Canadian Freeriding Championship, when I saw the terrain at Red Mountain it made me smile ear to ear. Red Mountain has what we call “smart trees”. These trees grow perfectly apart from each other, it’s tight but you are still able to see through them and spot awesome pillow lines up ahead. Unlike in many other areas of BC where the trees can be tight and you end up guessing your way down the mountain.
Every freeride competitor I was with said these were the best tree runs they have ever skied. You can head to the top of the mountain and ski an endless heavenly tree run out of bounds all the way down to the highway. Wait five minutes, stick your thumb out and a friendly local (who is super stoked for you) will pick you up and drive you back to the resort to do it all over again!
I can’t mention Red Mountain without talking about Mt Roberts, venue to the Canadian Freeride Championship. It’s a short boot pack up, then steep at the top, mandatory cliffs to trees and open at the bottom. Best competition venue I have ever skied.
Nevados De Chillan, Chile
My first day in Nevados de Chillan I was skiing down a volcano on snow that had steam coming out of it! It was incredible. The Andes are the second largest mountain range in the world and what that says to me is a whole load of freeriding!
The resort of Nevados De Chillan is very quiet, except for the friendly locals who will invite you to their house for dinner having just met you on the chair lift. Beyond the resort is an incredible playground. Heli skiing with Platinum Helicopters is jaw dropping, as you circle endless spines, bowls, couloirs and steep faces that make this one of the best freeride ski destinations worldwide.
You can access so much of this with a days ski touring adventure, part of the reason we host our Uthrive Ski Retreats & Freeride camps here. It’s just amazing. Watch out for those winds though, they’ll knock you over, no joke!
Whistler, BC, Canada
I know you’ve heard this before but there is a reason Whistler is in every magazine and why the pros live here. I lived there for 11 years and I still didn’t ski everything. There are lots of different types of freeriding in Whistler: chair accessible, short hikes, ski touring, snowmobile or heli-skiing. Whistler area has it all.
On Whistler you can find endless pillow lines. The weather is usually overcast but it doesn’t matter as it has lots of tree runs to hit during flat light. A hidden gem is Garbanzo Chair; pillows lines, cliffs, trees and bike park trails you can jib around on.
But if you want to adventure out of the resort head over to Blackcomb where you can find the backcountry gate off Glacier chair down the backside of the t-bar. You can boot pack up to Husume or ski tour out to Spearhead.
Whistler are slowly building huts out on the Spearhead trail which I would strongly recommend once completed. This will add yet another dimension to what for me it one of the best freeride ski destinations worldwide.
Home to the Freeride World Tour Championships and location for our Uthrive Ski Retreat with Xtreme Verbier Champion Jackie Paaso. There’s a reason we chose Verbier as a Uthrive destination. It has every kind of terrain you could want which makes freeriding as a group fun and easy.
We’ve all watched the Freeride World Tour finals on the Becs de Rosses, well that just shows how gnarly you can ski in Verbier. You’ll never be bored or not challenged here. But besides the huge cliffs the FWT athletes hit, there are big, fun powder faces which you can access with a short hike or ski-tour.
Make sure to checkout the Freeride World Tour final there March 23-31 2019. That alone makes it one of the best freeride ski destinations worldwide.
The Coquihalla, BC, Canada
Oh man! Where do I start with this area? It always delivers with snow. All storms seem to head this way even if they miss other parts of BC. You need a snowmobile or ski touring gear, there are no resorts here (although there has been a plan submitted for a resort so visit soon before they ruin it).
Coquihalla Snowmobile Club have huts you can use in the area for shelter. They are basic but it gets you out of the wind and are somewhere to sleep for the night. You then wake up to untouched gnarly faces, huge cliffs, and mellow tree runs. I’m a novice snowmobiler but thanks to the forestry roads I was able to access most areas and enjoy endless adventures. I ski tour there a lot as well.
There is also excellent summer hiking so you can do some good recon on accessibility and finding a good route to make plans where you will ski that winter. That way you already know where you want to go as the area is huge. Easily one of the best freeride ski destinations worldwide.
It is advised to take a shotgun with you – you need a licence. My friend and I were stalked by a mountain lion out there on an early December tour. It was freaky but awesome!
Val Thorens, Three Valleys, France
I originally chose to visit Val Thorens during a bad winter as it is the highest ski resort in Europe. The resort sits at 2,300m, and with the mountain reaching 1000m higher I figured there has to be good snow up top, and I was right!
“Why is no one skiing over there” was my first thought on a powder day. There must be a good reason; avy danger, hidden crevasses, something. So I hired myself a guide, Jeremy Mocellin, and we skied everything!
There was no one around. For some reason if you have to take your skis off even for just 10 steps no one will ski it. It seems crazy to me! But I suppose the average family skier doesn’t want to ski a cliff face. That means, the more for us freeriders.
The accessibility of freeride terrain in Val Thorens is remarkable. Just take the Cime Caron Cable Car and you can ski down many routes. It is an aggressive steep face and at the bottom you can just jump back in the cable car and do it all over again. Magical!!!
FWT Champion Reine Barkered told me this was his favourite place to Freeride (besides his home town of Are in Sweden of course), “it has nice flowy terrain with a lot of options and it has everything from big mountain to tree skiing.” Its all easily accessed from Lech, Zurs or St Anton plus a range of smaller resorts.
I followed Reine and couldn’t tell you where I skied! We wound our way around Austria’s largest ski area (and one of the 10 biggest ski areas globally) finding great snow and excellent terrain. All I know is I had a really good time which is why for me it’s one of the best freeride ski destinations worldwide.
In the morning I was taken to the peaks of gnarly steep faces and the afternoon was spent skiing trees. The area is so large that whatever your freeride style you will find what you are looking for here. And of course there’s Schnapps waiting for you at the bottom!
Rogers Pass, BC, Canada
Before I go any further I have to warn you that this area is under tight avalanche control and they do bombings daily! So EVERY morning you have to check to see if the area you plan to ski is due to be bombed. They won’t see you and you don’t want to be caught out just because you were too damn lazy to check the website.
Now that the safety pep talk is over let’s talk about them mountains! Not just any mountains but one of the best freeride ski destinations worldwide. Just watch Nat & Anna Segals movie Finding the Line and you’ll see Nat scrambling over no fall zones to ski some big faces.
I love skiing couloirs and Rogers Pass has a lot of them. Whether they are couloirs requiring tight turns or a scary straight line they always lead to big open faces. So when you come charging out of a couloir at 60mph it doesn’t matter as you can enjoy some high-speed powder turns.
Epic tree runs with BC pillows are everywhere. I love popping off them and getting pow thrown in my face. When you get down towards the tree line you’ll find some really fun pillow lines; mellow, playful and you can throw some 3s or back flips off them on your way back down to the highway.
Huts or go back to town? Rogers Pass is located between Revelstoke and Golden so you can chose to stay in town and do day trips or you can stay in some huts out in Rogers Pass. If you stay in town be sure to ski Kicking Horse Ski Resort, home to Freeride World Tour Stop February 2-8 2019 and Revelstoke, home to FWQ 4* event Jan 10 2019.
Lake Tahoe, California
Ok, I’m going to be honest, the ski runs around here are not the longest, especially when you compare them to the Rockies or the Alps. But there is a serious benefit to that – shorter hikes and easier ski tours! All in one of the best freeride ski destinations worldwide.
You can lap a face all day putting one line down after another. Most faces have cliffs, mini spines and narrow chutes and it will take you less than 30 minutes to hike back up and do it again.
The famous Squaw Valley is in Tahoe is why freeriders such as Shane McConkey, Scott Gaffney and Ingrid Backstrom are based there. And it’s not just because it’s a venue for the Freeride World Tour. With the famous Palisades that Shane back flipped off and KT22 you’ll get a serious cheer from the chair when you send it. It is really fun and a good vibe for freeriders.
Another serious benefit to Lake Tahoe is the weather. They have a lot of bluebird days, something many other places, like BC, don’t get a lot of. You need good light to see your landing off a cliff and you need a clear sky to check out the zone you want to ski. In Lake Tahoe you usually don’t have long to wait for the storm to break so you can go out and shred.
Grand Massif, France
This is a hidden gem. There are 295km of slopes making it one of the largest ski areas in France with something for everyone and yet it is still missed by most. You don’t need to leave the resort for excellent freeriding. Head up to the top of Flaine for some fun things to jump off or ski the trees down to Morillon or Les Carroz.
Freeride World Tour Champion, Reine Barkered was on our Uthrive Ski Retreat in Grand Massif in March 2018 and sums it up perfectly “Grand Massif is a great place to get into freeriding because the terrain is so varied. Super steep parts, nice trees for stormy days and you have the big terrifying stuff if you want to take it a few steps further”.
Best freeride ski destinations worldwide: Safety!
Please ensure you check the avalanche reports daily. Know how to use your avalanche gear – take a course and regularly practice rescues. When skiing somewhere new talk to the locals and ski patrol, they will always know where is good and what faces usually slide. They can tell you what the winds have been doing and all the important stuff you need to know to keep safe and find powder.
And if you are not sure then hire a guide. When I go somewhere new I often hire a mountain guide. Just because I’m a pro freerider it doesn’t mean I know the history of every mountain or the snow conditions that season. A guide doesn’t just keep you safe but they’ll take you to the best slopes for the conditions and your ability.
Alternatively you can ski many of the best freeride ski destinations worldwide on Uthrive Ski Retreats. Not only will you have a great time but you’ll have a Freeride World Tour Champion show you around. Enjoy!
We hope you enjoyed the 10 best freeride ski destinations worldwide by Rachel Findler. Check out our other articles by adventure sport pros for more inspirational stuff!