Winterstoke Festival debuts this weekend 

Altus Mountain Guides hosting two days of workshops in the backcountry

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JORDAN WRIGHT COURTESY OF ROSS BERG - Backcountry fun Ross Berg of Altus Mountain Guides is looking forward to the inaugural Winterstoke Festival set for this weekend.
  • Photo by Jordan Wright Courtesy of Ross Berg
  • Backcountry fun Ross Berg of Altus Mountain Guides is looking forward to the inaugural Winterstoke Festival set for this weekend.

Ross Berg is hoping to expand knowledge of backcountry safety.

The founder of Altus Mountain Guides is devoting a whole weekend to it, in fact, as he is starting up the inaugural Winterstoke Festival on March 14 and 15. The weekend offers seven different clinics (four on the first day and three on the second), as well as a speaker series and afterparty Saturday evening.

"My main motivator for this is there are so many people in Whistler that I think could really use some education on backcountry skiing and staying safe," said Berg.

"I wanted to do something to offer it at a good price point that would encourage people to take courses that they otherwise wouldn't and try to create some sort of culture, some momentum behind educating yourself."

The clinics will ski off into the backcountry from Blackcomb Mountain and Berg hopes to also hit up Whistler Mountain afterward if conditions are favourable.

"I want to go to the Duffey and show people that area, because I think a lot of people are intimidated with that area," he said. "The more intermediate clinics and on the ski tour, we're going to go to the Duffey."

The clinics offered on Day 1 include avalanche skills, women's freeride, intro to split boarding and cliffs and jumps while Sunday offers steep skiing, ski mountaineering 101 and intro to ski touring. Guided ski touring is also offered both days. Some courses are $75 while others are $125.

Though the winter has been less than ideal with pow lacking in the region, Berg has been encouraged by the number of registrations so far, though numbers for the introductory are lagging behind the others.

"My mountain-guiding business has just lost so much interest with the current conditions," he said. "But considering that, I think the response to the clinic has been really good."

Berg explained the clinics cater to everyone, from beginners to experienced skiers. With each clinic capped at six participants, the guides can make the instructions relevant for all.

"People don't realize we can handle a wide range of abilities," he explained. "A guide can deal with someone who's maybe a little weaker and maybe a little stronger. The guides are still able to still offer a good learning experience to those of different abilities."

The speaker series will include instructors J.D. Hare, a daredevil who Berg explained has settled down just a touch, and Holly Walker, who he describes as an "up-and-comer." The presentations will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at Whistler Museum.

"They're people that they can relate to that are doing interesting things yet also shared an element of being conscious about safety," he said. "I want people to be excited about backcountry skiing but also recognize 'You know, we have to take a safe approach to backcountry skiing.'"

For more information or to register, visit


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