What is Big Mountain Skiing?

What is Big Mountain Skiing?

Big Mountain skiing is basically skiing down a venue in an interesting and fun way. Skiing down an “easy” way is “boring” for an onlooker, so we try to use the more difficult looking terrain, and then throw in some airs and maybe some tricks.

In competition, there are judges that determine your score. You will be judged on 5 criteria

1. Line Choice
Each competitor chooses his/her line or route down the course
High scores are given for choosing difficult routes
Difficulty is determined by steepness, exposure, air, snow and course conditions

2. Control
Competitors must remain in control at all times
Any loss of control will result in a lower score
Skillful recoveries will reduce penalties

3. Fluidity
Constant direction towards a goal
This includes continuity, pace and smooth transitions between sections of the course
Falling or stopping can have a negative impact in this category

4. Technique
Competitors are judged on style and turn quality relating to big mountain freeriding

5. Style/Energy
This encompasses the pace, energy and creativity with which a competitor attacks or descends his/her chosen line or route.
Style focuses on freestyle execution of maneuvers.

Traveling to a competition:

When we go to a competition at a different resort, we like to go at least one day earlier so that we can explore and get used to the venue. We also start deciding on a competition line. Athletes will always get an opportunity to inspect the venue before a competition. Usually, there is also time for inspection in the morning, before the competition begins. During the inspection we are not supposed to ski the line we have chosen, but we want to make sure the conditions haven’t changed too much from the previous day. Am I going to be able to ski the line I have chosen? Surprisingly enough, most venues are easily accessible (you might not even have to hike!).

The junior competitions are broken down by gender and age. Junior girls 12-14, Junior boys 12-14, Junior girls 15-17 and Junior boys 15-17. Snowboarders are competing in their own categories. A regional competition is usually a one day event with registration and skiing on the venue the day before. A national event is usually held during two or three days. In both regional and national events, qualifying runs are held to qualify for the finals.

Training for a Big Mountain Competition

Taos Ski Valley provides us with some of the greatest terrain in the US. We have so much technical terrain here from narrow chutes to big cliffs. During the season, we like to make sure you feel comfortable on your skis in all situations and terrain. Therefore, I like to ski everywhere, including the terrain park. Because we have been to many different competitions, we now know the terrain at that resort and can better train for exactly that venue. We like to ski hard and hike for strength and endurance. Some of the venues are quite long, so we want to make sure we don’t get too tired during a run. It is during training that we learn how to approach an air, how to land, and how to ski in different terrain and conditions.

IFSA (International Freeskiers Assosication) is our “ruling body”. They are the ones that set the rules, get qualified judges, keep scores, etc. I’d encourage you to visit their website and read the handbook. www.freeskiers.org


Many parents and people that are not familiar with Big Mountain, or Extreme skiing think this is very dangerous. Of course it can be, but so can any sport. However, I have very rarely seen injuries in a competition. It is ALL about progression and you and your coach knowing your limits. While coaches like to push you a little bit, we will not make you do something that is too dangerous for you. We always start small and then go bigger and bigger.

All junior events are held in-bounds, in areas covered by ski patrol. IFSA also has their safety standards that have to be met during a competition. Though not required, a beacon is always recommended as a precaution.

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