Interview with Free Ski Coach, Derek Foose: Living the winter dream

There are few working skiers who can say they have a gig as good as Derek Foose. Living in Whistler, British Columbia, he splits his winter time between coaching steeps clinics for the high-end ski program Extremely Canadian and leading the next generation of pro skiers around the mountain with the Whistler Freeride Club. Having come a long way from his roots of skiing at Edmonton’s Rabbit Hill, Foose now spends every work day in technical terrain and if conditions allow–sending it big. The 36-year-old now has two children, and though fatherly responsibilities take up more time than ever before, Foose still manages to get his powder fix on the mountain. In the summers he coaches for the Whistler Bike Park and counts down the days until the snow flies again.  

The Clymb: What is your go-to zone at Whistler Blackcomb early season?
Derek Foose: That definitely depends on the situation. There’s a lot of Pale Face over to the Goat Path but that’s a bit of a risky one. You can get stung over there falling into open creeks and I work pretty hard to not be the guy who ends his season the same day it starts. The last few years they’ve been really good at allowing us foot access to the Peak. Maybe one or two laps on the Green Chair then hike up to West Cirque and link up to Christmas Trees. 

The Clymb: What is your favourite run when the conditions are at their best?
Derek Foose: I’m probably 60/40 ratio Whistler to Blackcomb and every year that ratio gets more towards Blackcomb. I worked for Whistler Mountain when I first got here, when they were still separate companies and I think that formative time is why I still see Whistler as my home mountain. My favourite lift by a long shot is the Peak Chair. West Cirque to Christmas Trees to me is a classic. If all things are equal and I had the opportunity for an untracked powder run that would be my choice. 

The Clymb: What do love most about your job, besides getting paid to ski every day?
Derek Foose: It’s the reward of showing people what it is that brought us here and kept us here. I like coaching and I think it’s really rewarding developing skills and helping make people better, but just giving them that little insight into our lives and sharing the passion. There’s an overriding passion that brought us all here and allowed us to stay. Being able to share that passion with other people, showing them the terrain and the magic that this place has to offer. It’s nice to take some of the guesswork out of it too.  It was definitely a bit of bumpy process learning your way around Whistler and Blackcomb in the ’90s, there was nobody showing you the way. 

The Clymb: Do you find that coaching high end freeride skiing satisfies your ski fix while you’re working?
Derek Foose: Yes for sure, I’m really lucky that the position that I’m in with my work is really high end skiers with people who are absolutely into it and want to be skiing steeps in the alpine. It does let me enjoy every day I go to work. But there’s a few key differences to that and freeskiing. It’s a stretch to call it work some days, but the main thing is having to worry about people that are with me. Obviously if one of my buddies falls in a tree well I’ll help them but it’s not the same as being responsible for them. I only need to get me from the top to the bottom, I stop a lot less when I’m not working.

The Clymb: How has your winter ski time been affected since you became a Dad?
Derek Foose: I’m not freeskiing as much as I used to, but since he was two I’m putting time and effort into Mason’s (Foose’s eldest son) skiing, which is amazing. Now he loves it. He had his first year of ski school last year, and every day he came home just over the moon and stoked on skiing. I’m loving being a parent of a ski kid. We go skiing together now which is like a dream come true.

 Photo credit: Mark Going/Columbia