Story by Cara Williams Photos by Randy Lincks
A Whistler institution since 1994, Extremely Canadian was founded by legendary Freeskier Peter Smart, who introduced a new style of instruction to aspiring big mountain skiers. Over 25 years later Extremely Canadian continues to school adventurous skiers (snowboarders too!) on how to attack steeps with more confidence and control. Known for taking clients to secret stashes as well as teaching big mountain tactics, safety and technique, Extremely Canadian goes way beyond your average ski school.
I can tell you from experience: if you think you’ve skied everything on Whistler/Blackcomb, you haven’t. Not even close. Arguably, some of the best years of my pre-child-rearing life were the ones I spent guiding and coaching with Extremely Canadian in the late 90s to mid 00s. Being invited to join the ranks is a rare occurrence and in order to be considered, one must have a vast understanding of snow conditions, avalanche training, coaching experience and of course, know both mountains like the back of your hand. Guides/ coaches are hand-picked from the most experienced Whistler locals and insider knowledge is only the tip of the iceberg. With over 5,000-feet of vertical and a combined 8,000 acres of skiable terrain, Extremely Canadian’s staff are all about improving and refining your off-piste technique. They’re also about finding the best terrain and the best snow: chutes, bowls, couloirs, trees and steeps will all become second nature to clinic graduates.
“The first time I went to Whistler I looked up in awe at some of the gnarliest terrain and thought how crazy it was that people actually skied those lines,” says Kyle Lane, a Torontonian who skis at Blue Mountain. “If you’ve been to Whistler you know that as you start getting into the double-black bowls, chutes, couloirs, etc., the terrain gets pretty serious. And beyond that, there’s a whole world of inbounds terrain that’s not on the trail map. I signed up for Extremely Canadian because I wanted someone to show me around that world, while at the same time improving my skiing so that I could handle that terrain with more confidence. Suffice to say it exceeded my expectations, to the point that I keep coming back—I have done a Steeps Clinic at least once a season ever since. Even though I now know my way around both mountains pretty well (and my skiing has improved significantly), I keep coming back because they continue to push my limits, and somehow manage to take me places I still haven’t been. Plus, they’re generally just great people to ski with.”
Diving head first into the increasingly sought-after backcountry realm, Extremely Canadian is also dominating the limitless expanse of ski touring and split-boarding options in the lift-assisted Coast Mountains. Their vast knowledge of the area is unparalleled—none other than Keith Reid (the former president of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) runs the program. Now you can conquer the Spearhead traverse or catch a full day of untracked runs. Of course, to round out their repertoire they are also offering Avalanche Skills Training (AST1+) courses to better prepare skiers and riders for backcountry independence.
Safety is always top-of-mind and with the COVID-19 pandemic, now is as good a time as any to head to the Canadian west. With small group ratios, private lessons (including private family clinics) and discounted lift passes with the purchase of an Extremely Canadian clinic/tour (only $38/ day), you are assured a safe, socially distanced and unique experience. Did I mention priority upload? Man, I love cutting lift lines.
“I think any time is a great time to visit Whistler and ski with Extremely Canadian,” says Kyle. “But likely even more so than normal this year, for a couple of reasons; its looking more likely that it will be a La Niña winter (which is usually good news for snowfall in Whistler); and combined with the capacity restrictions that will be in place, it should mean the powder won’t get skied out as quickly as normal. But you’ll still need to know where to go to find the goods and that’s where Extremely Canadian comes in. Taking care of your lift reservation and having lift line priority will also be big this year. And of course, if COVID restrictions are inspiring you to get away from the lifts and head to the backcountry, you’ll want to do it safely by taking an AST1 course and/or hiring a guide before setting off on your own.”
Join up with other adventurous backcountry enthusiasts to explore the Coast Range mountains, or conquer specific runs on your bucket list. Extremely Canadian’s backcountry tours are tailored for the exploratory skier/snowboarder who wants to spend a full day scaling mountain peaks and bagging epic lines. With 13 glaciers and 14 mountains in their backyard they also offer overnight backcountry adventures through mountain cols, across glaciers, and down life-changing descents.
“Every day I’ve skied with Extremely Canadian has been an awesome day,” says Kyle. “Even the days when conditions haven’t been the best. Honestly, those sometimes turn out to be the best days—anyone can have fun on a bluebird powder day, but if it’s a day with challenging visibility and not much new snow, I’d probably take it easy if skiing on my own, whereas with Extremely Canadian you will still go 100 percent.”
Extremely Canadian was built on providing intermediate, advanced and expert skiers with the best blend of technique building and heart-pumping action and exploration. Whether you’re looking for intensive instruction, or just a guide to help you find the best terrain and snow on the mountain with lift line priority, Extremely Canadian will satisfy even the hungriest powder hound. And with guides hand-picked from the pantheon of Whistler ski luminaries: film stars, ex-national team members, and freeskiing heroes, you can’t go wrong.
For more information about Extremely Canadian visit extremelycanadian.com