Freeriding, terrain parks and pistes
in Mt Baker
It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s the weekend when it’s busy, or during the week when things are quiet, you need to be on that first lift if you want freshies. The standard of freeriding is high, and by lunchtime everything inbound and much of what is out of bounds will be riddled.
The resort has a very open policy to going off-piste and positively encourages it, but make sure you heed all the signs; when the signs says cliffs, there are cliffs, and you really need to make sure you know where you’re heading in the extreme danger zones, so scope things out before you launch off anything or your mum will be picking you up at the airport in a black body bag.
The double-diamond runs of the chute, under lift c-1 and Gabbi’s under lift c-5 are the obvious places to head if you want your thrills steep and the abuse loud when you wipeout. It can take a while for the resort to open the Canyon Zone after a good dump, but if you like it steep and deep, then keep an eye out when its green lighted, short it may be but it’s worth it. Sneaking under the ropes in a closed area is the surest way to get into major trouble, and maybe prosecution, so resist the urge.
The areas around North Face and Cannuck’s provide plenty of great and relatively easy powder opportunities and loads of little drops and hits and you can just lap these areas all day.
The ski boundary markers are clearly signposted, but if you’ve got all the right equipment, and know the conditions then it’s all open to you, but hire a guide or a find a trustworthy local to show you the best bits. Don’t just follow someones tracks, however tempting it is, as you can get into some serious trouble here.
If you’re not too hardcore then there is plenty of nice easy pow to find off lift c-8, and it tends to gets ignored by the masses.
Freestylers who like their hits natural will find nowhere else quite like it; there are so many drops things to launch yourself off, and some mighty cliffs for those with the balls and a death wish. The famous Banked Slalom course can be found just off the top of lift C-5 in the Shuskan area. This long natural halfpipe winds down the gulley alongside the piste and is super fun. The contest, held in February, is the longest running snowboard competition and dates back to 1985. It still attracts hundreds of competitors, and is one hell of a party. For those lacking the imagination of hunting out the epic hits will find a small terrain park, called the Pinky Park, located at the top of C-3 and C-4 lifts. As its name might suggest, this isn’t really aimed at the hardcore park rat, but does feature a few kickers and okay rails; just don’t expect it to be maintained on a powder day.
People don’t come to Baker for its pistes; it’s not to say that they aren’t particular good, but the focus is firmly on freeriding. None of the double black diamond slopes are ever groomed, as are few of the regular black slopes. If pistes are your thing then loop the Shuskan area and the C-5 and C-8 chairs, where you’ll find a good selection of long well pisted groomers there, with absolutely no flat-bits or dodgy cambers to worry about, you’ll also find things pretty quiet.
Beginners won't be disappointed with Mt Baker, with the option of learning on plenty of easy runs that are spread out around the area, the best being located on Shuskan. There is a dedicated slow-zone that runs from the C-7 lift, and very few riders using these slopes to access other parts of the mountain. You won’t find any tricky t-bars or drag lifts, and the run-offs from the chairlifts are usually pretty mellow. At the other end of the resort, at the bottom of the Heather Meadows base station are a few more beginner runs, which are good to total beginners but can be a little flat.READ NEXT: Village life, accommodation & nightlife
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