A city in a ski area? Yes, Innsbruck! Freeride Master Flo Orley is happy to show you around.
He ranks as one of the world’s best freeriders. Wild, yet elegant, Flo Orley can propel himself down the steepest slopes – accident-free! No, there’s no sorcery at play here; all you need is bit of risk management and a lot of skill. A powder tour in Innsbruck offers an unforgettable experience – Flo reveals 4 of the city’s powder hotspots and explains the best way to get started in the sport (translated from German).
An easy start
So, let me state the obvious – you need to be a good skier or snowboarder to begin with. “Then you need enough guts to venture out into free terrain!” says Flo grinning from ear to ear as we sit together in Café Mundig in Innsbruck. But going hell for leather on dangerous terrain is not a good idea when you’re just starting! “What does help at the beginning is to take part in a course and to have someone experienced with you, ideally a mountain guide or a ski or snowboard instructor.” In freeride camps, they can teach you, first and foremost, the essentials of backcountry know-how, to ensure more safety in off-piste powder. “Many of the participants are totally astounded when they see how simple it can be.” “’Scuse me,” interrupts the waitress and serves us hot chocolate and ‘Sacher’ cake.
The right equipment is half the battle
“You don’t have to spend thousands and thousands of spondoolies,” Flo reassures me, “but you do need a few basics.” Here they are, from the bottom to the top:
- Broader skis or a longer snowboard let you ‘float’ better in deep snow, otherwise you get cramps in the back of your foot.
- Freeride boots and snowboard boots are really helpful because you can walk and climb better with them.
- Clothes should be cut a bit baggier to give you maximum freedom of movement.
- The key piece of equipment is a rucksack with a shovel for digging and a probe to locate buried people.
- You shouldn’t keep your transceiver in your rucksack – it could get lost.
- Airbag rucksacks can prevent you from becoming buried in the case of an avalanche.
- And always wear a helmet. So that’s all you need to start.
“A real rider, of course, carries other stuff too like wire for repairing bindings, tape for sticking, a second pair of goggles, something to drink, a spare T-shirt and a GoPro for taking cool photos,” says Flo tucking heartily into his cake. “Oh, yeah and back protectors are a good idea.”
Going it alone – safely
When can a beginner go it alone without a guide or instructor? “Everyone has to decide for themselves when they’re ready.” Flo has regular guests who have been coming to him for years and prefer to pay him rather than freeride alone – although theoretically they don’t need him anymore. What IS important, though, is that you begin with a professional expert.
Visions of master-and-pupil scenes from Kung-Fu film start swirling through my mind:
Master: “You will know when the time is right.”
Pupil: “But Master, how will I know?”
Master: “You will sense it.”
And he wipes the hot chocolate off his top lip. No, not the Kung Fu Master – Master Orley!
Sitting in front of me is a likeable guy, 40 years old, with long, dark-blond hair and a sunny-boy smile. A bit of a roguish dude who transformed his passion into his profession and has managed to stay young. Respect!
The Master speaks: “Keep a big distance between life and death!”
Flo has held many talks on safety in freeriding. Knowledge and planning result in enhanced safety, and safety is the distance between life and death.
Masterful: Freeriding with Flo Orley
I’m not kidding! Flo Orley will go freeriding with you – alone or with a few friends – here in Innsbruck. On the Nordkette range, in Axamer Lizum, on the Stubai Glacier or in Kühtai. Visit www.freeridecenter-austria.com  and you can ask him yourself.
Flo about himself, Innsbruck and 4 freeride hotspots
Date of birth:
Professional freerider, snowboard guide, tandem paragliding pilot, father
Married, 2 children
Greatest successes (competitions):
Vice World Champion 2011, 3-times third in the world championships (most recently 2015)
We’re living right now in the present, so the journey is the only meaningful destination.
My city. My friends. My home. Freeride City.
My greatest passion for the last 30 years.
My adventure playground on snow, on rocks and in the air and just awesomely cool for freeriding. Every time I go up there I stop and take a look at the city before riding off.
The gateway to high Alpine terrain and just steps away from glacial ice. A fantastic area for beginners too.
Has advanced from an insider’s tip to one of the best freeride locations in the Innsbruck area. The freeride terrain, with loads of different cliff drops, can be accessed right from the lift. In addition it boasts the spectacular 3* Freeride Qualifiers as well as the Kalkkogel hiking paradise with north-facing powder until well into April.
The perfect combination of a freestyle resort with Tyrol’s biggest superpipe, a first-rate park and masses of terrain. Extra-long descents for those who are happy to climb half an hour to an hour.
Future of freeriding?
More authentic, more exotic, wider appeal
Is freeriding an addiction?
Yes! In the few second before you ride it has to be 100 % clear in your mind, that when you ride, then you ride – there’s no going back!
A perfect start to my day:
Packing my stuff for the next adventure.
A bad start to my day:
My greatest opponent on the mountain.
The stuff that dreams are made of.
Can’t live without them.
One final thing I would like to say:
A life filled with adventure stories is infinitely much more valuable than an account full of money.
Thanks for taking the time to talk. Maybe I’ll come and join you sometime on one of your guided freeride tours – and of course I’ll write about it. I already had the privilege of enjoying a tandem paraglide flight with none other than Flo Orley himself, a report on which you can read here: Teuflisch: Paragleiten in Innsbruck  (german).
Book freeride packages here: FREERIDE NOW!!!