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Extremely Canadian Backcountry Skiing Clinic Review

Extremely Canadian is a Whistler-based company that is best known for offering specialty steep skiing clinics (combining a mix of quasi-guiding and instruction inbounds). With the growth in interest in backcountry skiing worldwide and in the Whistler environs, it seemed logical to Peter and Jill (founders and owners) to expand their offerings to extend to the backcountry. A new product they offer this year is a One-day Backcountry Clinic (see press-release for full marketing gobbledygook) for $ 199 per person.

These clinics are billed as a basic one-day introductory course directed at introducing resort skiers to accessing backcountry. It's easy to understand there might be demand for this as backcountry access is relatively easy via the Whistler lift system and terrain adjacent to the resort is, in a word, huge. To find out a bit more the Extremely Canadian offering and to see how they could convey substantive useful information about upping a person's awareness, safety practises and backcountry travel skills, I tagged along on one of their clinic offerings.

The day starts as you check in at Whistler Base

The day starts as you check in at Whistler Base.

The Guide and our day

Keith Reid is the lead for this new offering. As the President of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG), and one of Canada's most experienced mountain guides, he has forgotten more about backcountry travel and mountaineering than most people have ever learned. His reputation and credentials are impeccable.

I met with Keith and the group at the assigned time on one of the busiest days of the year (bluebird weather helped). Despite the crowds inbounds we were soon on lifts heading to the Blackcomb backcountry gates. The guests dictate how the course go either overtly (tell the guide what you want to do) or by implication (their experience, fitness or desires). On this day, the guests (Adam, Robin and Hal from Vancouver; Lisa from Pemberton & Rob from Whistler) were a well-matched group, all being competent skiers but having limited backcountry experience. Accordingly, as the guide, Keith used his imagination and came up with a plan for the day.

Up the lifts and a short bootpack to the top of the Blackcomb Glacier. Then out the backcountry access point on the Blackcomb Glacier moraine


Through the gates, up the Dean's Adieu traverse and towards Spearhead Col where Keith provided some technique lessons in setting good skin tracks by - not - lemminglike following existing tracks but setting his own

I would be lying if I said there was an abundance of new snow. The group knew that and the day's tour was tailored accordingly to maximize views as well as obtain reasonable skiing. Our route exited the Blackcomb backcountry gate, climbed up to Spearhead Col then descended SE facing slopes to Circle Lake. After a short break the group climbed back up to the Spearhead Glacier and then via a short bootpack to the glacier immediately E of Don't Swill. Another short skin and bootpack then took the group out via a throughly skied Husume couloir and back to the resort area. Then down to Merlins and the traditional Extremely Canadian post-class appies and beer at Merlins. It was a fairly big day for an introductory backcountry course but with faultless weather


It's always educational seeing how a guide works in the field; with an economy and efficiency that is difficult to imagine. It was impressive to see how much knowledge transfer and education could happen in the span of one day without overwhelming clients. Some of the hard and soft skills that were explained or demonstrated by Keith were: use of the classic companion rescue tools of transceiver, probe and shovel; setting appropriate skin tracks with style (as opposed to the too-steep tracks often seen in slack-country); choosing up-routes for safety and efficiency; choosing safe spots; efficient quick transitions; and crevasse avoidance.

Rob finds some lines dropping down to Circle Lake

Lots of traffic on Circle Lake. 

Phalanx Mountain in the background as Keith does more information dumping; Adam and Robin soak it all up

Lisa shreds Husume

All in all, this is a worthy clinic that would benefit a lot of people. I can see the target market for this as not just the introduction to the backcountry for resort skiers but also the time-deprived weekender who wants to get a lot of information very quickly. Perhaps too the aspiring backcountry traveller who wants to tuneup their skills.

There's a lot to be said for professional products where you get relentlessly practical, useful instruction from the best. The market may very well agree since emails and calls about these clinics have been flooding in. Do yourself a favour and check it out yourself.

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