Nestled in the mountains next to Kokanee Glacier near Nelson, B.C. is some of the best backcountry skiing in the province, making it the perfect spot for Soulines Backcountry Big Mountain Freeride competition. The three-day camp in event held at the beginning of March challenged skiers and snowboarders on technical features such as cliffs, pillows and open faces.
For Sun Peaks resident 20-year-old Jan Glowczynski, who came away with third place and new nitro gear, it was the experience of a lifetime.
The conditions on and off the course challenged him mentally and physically, admitting after the first night of camping he realized he didn’t bring a warm enough tent and sleeping bag for the -10 C temperatures.
“The first night it snowed just over a foot of snow so we kept brushing off our tents. The sleds, skis and helmets were just covered in snow. It was so fluffy and dry though,” said Glowczynski.
The competition is an exclusive event with only the strongest riders being accepted. Glowczynski was referred by fellow Sun Peaks skier Kieran Nikula who won the competition last year. He explained Nikula had to vouch for him, telling organizers he had the necessary skills before he was able to go through an interview process to be accepted to the competition.
“They want to have people there having fun. It’s all about having fun pretty much and it seemed super relaxed and mellow.”
With a shortage of big mountain lines available at home, Glowczynski and Nikula prepared by skiing under the Burfield chairlift going as fast as possible while focusing on fluidly. He added skiing on hard snow helped him better his skills for the powder conditions at the event.
The starting list was determined by a avalanche beacon search with each competitor sent out to complete a timed beacon search; Glowczynski was slower finding the beacon so he was at the bottom of the start list.
Soulines allowed competitors to do as many runs as possible in their allotted time, but with a half an hour skin up to the zone, most competitors only had two runs.
“That terrain is so much different than what I’m used to. It’s just like you don’t have time to stop and look at the drop you’re getting. You kind of just have to piece it all together and look at the face at the bottom but you can’t like go up and look over the cliff jumps,” he said.
While Glowczynski didn’t crash on either of his runs he said many of the competitors did with one even setting off a small avalanche after dropping off a cliff.
He said that because there was so much fresh snow event organizers took every safety precaution so riders were safe from avalanches, even having different areas on the mountain ready as alternate zones.
Before dropping in Glowczynski asked his friends for advice, admitting he was intimidated. He gained confidence after completing his first run.
“You can’t see over the rolls, it’s like blind rolls and there’s cliffs everywhere. If you mess up your line you can get into some pretty gnarly stuff,” he said.
Due to the terrain he couldn’t see any of his competitors runs so he didn’t know how he was performing compared to his competitors. He was confident he’d do well because he skis and keeps up with Nikula but he was not expecting it when his name was announced for third place.
Glowczynski said the best part of the three days was getting better at skiing, feeling more confident in the mountains and pushing himself.
With plans to attend the event again next year, his advice to anyone looking to go is to make sure they have a good tent, lots of layers, a warm sleeping bag and to have fun.