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Winterstoke Backcountry Festival returns for fifth year

Annual event celebrates backcountry adventure with events and clinics from Jan. 24 to 27
Pro skier Izzy Lynch will be part of a multimedia presentation called Local Lines as part of this year's Winterstoke Backcountry Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. Photo by Zoya Lynch/ from the archives

Outdoor enthusiasts taking part in the Winterstoke Backcountry Festival might want to start downing caffeine now.

Heading into its fifth year from Jan. 24 to 27, the festival features panel discussions, an art show, a beer-filled après and, of course, clinics.

“It’s a big day,” says Ross Berg, organizer of the festival, with a laugh. The one-day clinics range from beginner courses—including Split Board Intro, Ski Touring Intro, Snow Safety 101 and Women’s Intro Ski Touring—to more complex, intermediate multi-day clinics and advanced sessions on ski mountaineering and avalanche skills.

“It’s been interesting to see the community as a whole get better at ski touring,” says Berg, a long-time local guide through Altus Mountain Guides. “The community every year is getting a little better, using the terrain in a better manner. It’s been fun to see that happen. I think these clinics help the community as a whole get better at being safe in the mountains. That’s been a big objective of mine.”

While Berg oversees the clinics, Arc’teryx, the festival’s new partner, is helping with the indoor events for a second year. One Berg is particularly excited about, though, is Mountain Art at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre on Saturday, Jan. 26. It will feature local artists live painting mountain-inspired pieces as well as food, beer and music.

Funds from an auction will go towards the Winterstoke Fund. “From my side, that’s important,” Berg says. “We’ve raised some funds (in past years) for youth programs. We’ve been looking at different groups (and talking to) the Lil’wat Nation about creating some programming for youth. I want that event to work so we can create some momentum.”

The festival officially kicks off on Thursday, Jan. 24, with a panel discussion called Mountain Behaviour with various experts talking about risk management when travelling in the mountains.

“It’s basically just getting industry professionals together and talking about the decision-making process in the mountains,” Berg says. “That’s a pretty dynamic discussion.”

Another anticipated event is Friday’s Local Lines, which will feature pro-skiers Chad Sayers and Izzy Lynch with a multimedia presentation “to inspire and feed your next adventure” at the Maury Young Arts Centre.

Overall, the goal of the weekend is to celebrate backcountry adventure and help people expand their knowledge on how to enjoy the mountains safely. “I saw a lot of people taking the AST 1 course and that’s it,” Berg says. “No one was educating themselves beyond this very basic avalanche course. I find that frustrating. There’s so much more to learn.”

To see the full list of clinics and events and to sign up visit