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