Arc'teryx Backcountry Academy header image

Work Tripping: Attending the 2024 Arc'teryx Backcountry Academy

By Hannah Truby

It’s the day before the Arc'teryx Backcountry Academy kicks off, and our group is crossing the boundary into the backcountry of Blackcomb, British Columbia. Our destination is a fluffy 2,200 ft. off-piste descent called Corona Bowl. It’s low visibility and high spirits out here. 

I’m representing Mountain Gazette this week, and while I’ve come to the land of maple leaves and free roads on business, it’s really been just a whole lot of fun.

The Academies are designed to foster a deep connection with the outdoors, and whether or not Mike was aware of it, I was in need of some serious nature-focused TLC.

“Arcteryx reached out about one of us going to Whistler at the end of the month,” his text read. “It’s an all expense paid press trip. If your passport is up to date, you should go on behalf of MG.”

Academically speaking, I was in no position to agree to a last-minute international work trip. 

Naturally I said yes.

Fast forward two weeks. I’m in Vancouver. Before making our way up to Whistler, our group is invited inside the Arc’teryx Design Center (DC), located in North Van. Headquarters. So cool. 

Though I myself had never owned or worn Arc'teryx anything, I was aware of the brand's reputation. I expect to be met with an elaborate, space-age facility, a lab of GORE-TEX-testing technology. Instead, I find a workshop. A think-tank of desks, computers, sewing machines, cutting tables, and racks of cut-up prototypes. Almost bare-boned. It's a hive of collaboration and organized chaos. 

Gathered around a cutting table, I rub the impossibly soft fabric of a climbing bra between my fingers. “If you took the logo off,” CCO Katie Becker says to us. “We want you to know that it’s Arc’teryx.”

To me, Arc’teryx is one of those alluring brands that somehow manages to be kind of the best at everything, and you kind of wonder whether the hype can be backed. To see the simplicity behind such a label - and, consequently, its authenticity - was kind of remarkable. No logo is as cool as a product that truly does what it’s designed to, and (not that you were waiting for my seal of approval), but I can confirm: it does what it's meant to.

The Arc’teryx Academies started with their Climbing Academy almost two decades ago, where climbers from around the world gathered at the granite faces of the Stawamus Chief in Squamish, BC. The brand added similar clinics over the years, with Whistler being the latest in their list of top-tier destinations.

Arc'teryx product timeline sheet

Using Arc'teryx stamp press

Besides days spent backcountry, the star attraction of the Academy are the clinics, and this year’s lineup has got some serious variety: ‘Choosing Big Mountain Lines’, ‘Intro to Splitboarding’, ‘Avalanche & Apres’, and ‘Women’s Intro to Backcountry Skiing’, to name a few.

It seems there's something for each and every kind of backcountry user. A broader theme of the Academy, the clinics aim to make recreating in the backcountry a fun, safe, and approachable activity, and for those like myself – experiencing her mere third day in the backcountry – we are glad for it. 

“There’s never a wrong question in the backcountry,” brand athlete Spencer O’Brien reminds us. This was during the ‘Women’s Intro to Splitboarding Clinic’ - one of several female-specific courses. Next to accessibility, there was a kind of ‘women in the wild’ theme throughout the weekend, something I don’t think I took note of until our Q&A with the brand’s female athletes.

One evening we gathered around a suite in the Four Seasons for a showing of their latest film. Part ski movie, part poetic narrative, and part eco-conscious message, “Continuum” is about circularity. 

Completely female-cast, produced and directed, “Continuum” is not marketed as an “all women film”. When asked why, Robin Van Gyn’s response stuck with me:

“There’s this archaic idea as female athletes that if you’re chasing men, it makes you stronger in the mountains. This was us challenging that notion.”

After hours on the mountain, a host of ‘apres’ opportunities await the Academy-goers: film screenings, live music, pop-up shops, art exhibits, a beer-delivering Yeti who appears after the tinkling of a bell! Arc’teryx sure knows what the crowd wants.

Skiers in matching bibs

 Friday night is filled with special tributes and representations of Indigenous culture. Whistler - and, consequently, the Academy - are situated on the unceded (stolen) Lil’wat and Squamish territories, a reminder that is sustained throughout the weekend by film screenings and art exhibits showcasing and celebrating the region's original peoples. During our first day ascent, Arc’teryx athlete Sandy Ward shared with us stories from her own Lil’wat nation, the mountain's place names,  and even taught us a Lil’wat word or two. 

Getting to travel and connect with like-minded people - learning, working, and a little playing - in the great outdoors is what makes this industry kind of the best. But beyond the beautiful mountainscape and the excitement of new things, what struck me most was just how far our small but mighty mag can reach. 

The week included lots and lots of mingling, and I connected with a slew of new people. ‘Who are you here with?’ was the usual opener. ‘Mountain Gazette!’, I’d say. ‘You’re Hannah from the newsletters!’ was one response. That was kinda cool to hear. The other: ‘I love Mountain Gazette.’

Being a country away, the amount of people who had not only heard of, but love and admire, our magazine was pretty amazing, and I felt extremely proud to represent us.

Athlete Sandy Ward at the Backcountry Academy media day

Jenna, Greta, and Hannah media interview

Arc'teryx athletes interview session

Arc'teryx Regear Pop Up shop

Arc'teryx music vendor after-party