By Rob Dunlop

The sport of freeskiing has come a long way from the days of then-mogul skiers Mike Douglas, JP Auclair and JF Cusson screwing around in the snowboard-dominated Whistler terrain park. An infectious new aspect of skiing has people all over the world wanting to learn how to do all the tricks they see in videos-- many will go as far as paying a ski instructor to teach them how to ski a terrain park. This definitely causes a dilemma for ski resort operators. With insurance companies coming down harder than ever on ski resorts and terrain parks, the need has grown for instructors to be certified to teach in the park to avoid potential lawsuits in the event of a client getting injured under their supervision. A few years ago, the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance along with the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association and help from NSC team rider Doug Bishop, developed a freeski certification program that allows instructors to take their lessons into the park and teach people how to properly hit jumps, slide rails and ride pipe.

The course breaks down into three days that allows for two days of practise your skiing in the park and pipe. The final day encompasses everything learned in the previous two days with evaluation of park skiing as well as evaluation of teaching a lesson. If you are fortunate enough to take the course with a large number of skiers as I did, you’ll not only learn a few things but you’ll have an awesome time learning them.

Think you need to be a pro skier to pass this course? Not at all. The course requires you to have basic knowledge and basic park skills but other than that, it’s fair game. Course requirements for this year are as follows; you must be a decent parallel skier, be able to ski switch on intermediate terrain, show the ability to judge in-run speed and demonstrate how to take off and land properly on entry level jumps, correctly demonstrate three of a selection of grabs and old-school bump tricks, demonstrate a 180 and 360, be able to link 5 hits in the pipe with three being above the wall, air to fakie with at least one-foot amplitude and grind a three-metre plastic rail no more than six inches off the ground. If you can do all that, then you’ve already passed the skiing portion of the course. The difficult part is of course the teaching.

Now I’m going to say a little about the course I took at Blue Mountain during the first weekend of January. The course was made up of 35+ skiers from all over Ontario with their skills ranging from beginner park skiers to sponsored riders and five course conductors, all of whom were very knowledgeable about park skiing. We were broken up into groups and spent the first morning of the course working on our regular skiing (we’re not park rats). That afternoon was spent working on rails but since the required plastic rail wasn’t available we use the box. The rest of the day was spent indoors doing basic teaching workshops. Day two began in the pipe and later moved to a small roller, which had been turned, into a jump. The great part of the second day was that it was so warm that the Badlands chair at Blue was closed so we were forced to either take the six-pack to the top and ski into the park or simply hike. I unlike most people, decided to take the latter option. With the chair closed, we ended up being the only people in the park for the better park of the day. Imagine, a half-pipe session with 35+ skiers and no snowboarders. The morning of day three was our skiing evaluation everything went great until we saw what we had as our rail. This rail was about nine feet long and worst of all, it was aluminium, which meant it was real sticky. The only problem I could find with this course was waiting for roughly two hours to find out our results. It all worked out in the end and not only did the vast majority of us get certified we all had a blast doing it. Instead of seeing this course as something that was tedious and boring like most ski courses, this one was more like a massive session among friends with everyone helping each other out if there was something they needed work on. I know I needed some help in there (thanks Justin).

Bottom line, if you’re looking to get away from all those little snot-nosed kids you teach how to ski, then I suggest signing up for the CSIA Freeski course. Not only will you have a good time, you just might pick something up along the way!