Gaper’s Guide to Winterstoke Backcountry Festival 2016


“A gathering of backcountry ski enthusiasts to learn new skills, develop advanced techniques, and be inspired by local athletes.”

These are the words that Ross Berg, owner of Altus Mountain Guides, built the Winterstoke Backcountry Festival upon. In 2015, the festival went off with a bang for its inaugural year. Building on the success from last year, Winterstoke is about to be taken to the next level.

From speaker series featuring such legends as Johnny “Foon” Chilton of Foon Skis to a one day Tantalus hit, this weekend will be packed with wicked events! Not to mention, the prices are some of the most affordable ones that can be found.

Some candid Winterstoke action from last year's event.

Some candid Winterstoke action from last year’s event.

Now…. I know sometimes you folk might get sick of hearing me drone on. I get it. It’s cool. That’s why I caught up with the man himself Ross Berg to get the inside scope on Whistler’s HAWTEST new backcountry festival.

The man behind it all. The Bergmeister, Captain Business, Guide Extraordinare

The man behind it all. The Bergmeister, Captain Business, Guide Extraordinare

Felix: So, Ross. What inspired you to start the Winterstoke Backcountry Festival?

Ross: One of the main reasons to start the Winterstoke festival was to encourage more people to take steps to educating themselves on backcountry skiing, whether that was people just getting into it or wanting to push their backcountry skiing or boarding.  It seems the common trend is to do an AST 1 and then that is all the specific education that people will get. The rest is from friends and other people.  That’s fine and all but I think to really accelerate that learning process getting some direct teaching from a guide is the way to go. I also wanted to make the clinics more affordable than they would normally be to try to reduce the high barrier to entrance that backcountry skiing normally has.

The community aspect is also the other big piece to the event. I wanted to try to do something that might bring all these people together a bit more to share their backcountry experiences, make new connections, and get inspired to keep doing what they’re doing.

Felix: I for one, am super stoked to see such an event come to fruition. Why do you think such a great idea hasn’t been explored before?

Ross: That’s a good question because it’s definitely not a new concept. Lots of other ski towns have a backcountry-esque festival.  Perhaps the difference with Whistler is that the ski hill and other activities are just so good and prevalent that the backcountry scene gets a bit lost.  It seems in the past few years things have really gained strength though and the backcountry is booming! It will be exciting to see what the future holds.

Felix: Where do you see the festival going? What other aspects do you hope to incorporate into the festival?

Ross: I would love to be able to offer more clinics; it was pretty cool this year to see how quickly they were sold out!  The more advanced clinics where gone in a couple days.  I would also like to add some seminars so more people can get some learning or exposure without committing to a full day in the hills.  For me personally I want to hear more about what people are doing! I bet there are some great stories and some awesome learning opportunity to be shared from the Whistler community.

Felix: Would you rather fight one horse sized duck, or one duck sized horse?

Ross: For sure 1 duck sized horse.  Are you kidding me!  How adorable would that be.  And I think I could probably take him/her.

Felix: If I can only attend one of the events, which one is the one I can’t miss?

Ross: Well there is one spot left in the womens ski touring clinics.  I can see if they would accept you?  You do have long hair.

Or… I would take one of the steep ski or ski mountaineering clinics.  I think they are a good opportunity to hit some of the classic whistler backcountry lines with a guide.

Definitely come on Saturday to the speaker’s series at the Millennium Place.  Johnny Foon, Izzy and Zoya Lynch are telling some stories and showing pics.  Also there is there will be some beverages… if you’re into that thing.

Felix: I remember last year you ran an Instagram competition beforehand. Are you doing something like that again?

Ross: We did a little Instagram contest to find people to present on Friday in Squamish.  We are having a little locals photo comp as well, where a few people from Instagram can get up and show us their goods.  Winner takes a giant cheque worth $500.

Felix: Okay cool, I’ll be sure to hashtag my heart out! So I’ll end things off here with the classic Jamie Bond question: French girls or French fries?

Ross: Both have the potential to be bad for your health.. But French girls are probably worth it!

So there you have it from the man behind the veil. Trust me when I say this: Winterstoke festival is going to be bigger than The Beatles. Bigger than Jesus. Okay, maybe not quite that level. But in all seriousness, this festival is poised to really become something special. So if you’re interested in any of the upcoming events, check below for a detailed schedule of events!


WHEN: March 19th, 2016 Doors at 7pm

WHERE: Millenium Place



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