As access off-piste becomes readily available backcountry trails that were the once deserted canvas of diehard pro-skiers are now open to every weekend warrior or family holiday. Although this is positive for the popularity and continuance of skiing as a sport, it means that experienced off-piste skiers are driven by human inquisition to find untouched powder further and further from the piste. Some even go as far as heli-skiing to satisfy their desire for more extreme, isolated and dangerous runs. Fortunately there are still some great locations across the world which are both accessible yet virtually unknown.
The first of my top 3 unknown ski resort for free-riders is the small city of Fernie, Canada. Situated at the south easterly point of British Columbia, bordering with Montana, Fernie nestles in comfortably between the skiable ridges of Elk Valley. Although in the summer many of the slopes are taken over by mountain bikers and fly fishers, upon the first snows of winter the mountains create the perfect landscape on which to lay sensational powder. Fernie is renowned for good quality powder and lots of it, and the Alpine resort gives great access to runs all over this section of the Canadian Rockies. Nonstop Ski and Snowboard offers off-piste coaching and touring camps throughout the winter months.
Further to the south, also bordering Montana is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton County, Wyoming. Jackson Hole is a popular range not only with skiers but also photographers and wildlife enthusiasts, and has over the years grown something of a cult destination known for challenging terrain, great powder and a vast array of local wildlife. There have been great improvements to the facilities recently, including the introduction new electronic gates allowing you get on the slopes without such a wait in line. Construction has also started on a new chairlift that will open in 2015, which will bring the resort completely into the modern age. Although perhaps not as accessible as resorts in Europe, there is an airport which provides flights to Jackson 10miles away, from where you can then fly on to Denver. Though for adrenalin off-piste it cannot be beaten, and is even home to Corbet’s Coulior which has been described as Americas scariest ski slope. Protected from the wind, the coulior is a huge stash of powder and require a 9m drop to begin the run, and must be attempted before you can call yourself a true adrenaline junky.
For those whom the Americas are not quite exotic enough, there is Treble Cone near Wanaka, New Zealand. Treble Cone boasts access to some of the best backcountry terrain in New Zealand and ‘Aspiring Guides’ which caters for those of all levels. It boasts a great academy, and is even used as a training ground for some European national ski teams. Set in stunning Southern Lakes, this area is a dream for anyone with an eye for a view, and those over Lake Wanaka are truly breath taking. Although not the most expansive ski range Treble cone offers some of the best skiing for free riders, and is easily accessible so long as you make the trip to New Zealand.