Want to start skiing some seriously rowdy terrain? Of course you do! Jon Devore, with a host of Alaskan first descents under his belt, has all the answers
Another day, another cliff jump | Scott Serfas/Red Bull Content Pool
1. Leg work
A lot of people want to learn, or majorly step up their skills, but don’t know where to begin. For example, in speed riding, my particular discipline, even finding a mountain resort that will let you do it is a challenge. And there’s only one location that has a real speed riding school I’d recommend: Valfréjus, France. What I am saying is, no matter which skiing discipline you’re into, take the time to do the research. Speak to as many people as possible, and get to the best possible training stop, with the best possible tuition.
2. Muscle it
High-level sport is all about muscle memory. In my opinion, it’s the most important part of being successful in skiing. And there is no better way to develop it than to practise over and over at your local hill. Not surprisingly, it’s also very important to be in good physical shape before you set out on your first big mountain adventure. A healthy mix of strength training and core exercises like yoga is highly recommended. You don’t want to be carving a big turn over a glacier and have your legs give out on you.
3. Got skills
Knowing your skill level is probably the most valuable information you can have. I see a lot of athletes rushing into the unknown just because they saw some cool YouTube video online. For example with speed riding, it’s best to start on a larger, slower parachute. This will keep things safer and slower and let you focus on control. This approach translates to all skiing: take your time, incrementally and sensibly keep advancing what you are taking on. Most people get in trouble because they try and rip it like a Ferrari instead of a Honda!
4. Location, location, location
Once you’re ready to explore other mountains (rather than home turf) the next challenge is finding the right location. For me, speed riding can be dangerous as you can put yourself on parts of a mountain that were never meant to be skied. So a good location for learning/progression should start with an easy take-off area that is a gradual slope. This will allow plenty of time to abort the take-off if necessary. The same applies with big mountain skiing. You want to be able to bail easily and safely if need be. Always mitigate the risk. And think baby steps as you progress.
5. Expedition time
Once you feel you have the skills needed to take on a big backcountry mountain, remember to do your homework. It’s highly advisable to find a local guide who has years of experience in the terrain, and getting a good one can make or break a trip. Scouting the location in detail will be your best tool. With today’s technology you can get information on any location (like with Google Earth). Study the terrain and map out your desired line(s). You should go over this many times to help create the muscle memory needed for an epic run! FL
Jon Devore is sponsored by Red Bull.