Andrew Burns has been guiding and coaching at SASS Argentina for the past 14 seasons. That makes SASS Argentina 2018 his 15th season. Burns has taught more people how to build backcountry jumps than anyone on the planet. That’s a fact (we welcome any claims to the contrary). Burns is the man who can take you from the guy sitting on the couch watching your favorite shred movie saying “I could hit that” to actually learning what it takes to build that, hit that and how to hit it well. We have long prided ourselves on being a platform for freestyle progression in the backcountry. Burns is the one on snow making it happen…
Andrew Burns is the Head Freestyle Coach as well as a guide at SASS Argentina. He guides at SASS Japan during January and SASS Canada for the rest of the season, stars in the TransWorld Series TURN & BURN, literally built this website, and is a true professional behind the camera as well as in front of it riding for ZEAL Optics, D-Day Snowboards, DMOS, FIX Bindings, HomeSchool, Salmon Arms, MyPakage and Top of the world. Dude is busy (and the type of multi-talented human you want to be standing next to on a ridge in Argentina). Luckily, we got him to take a second to answer some questions…
How did you go from icy parks of eastern Canada to one of the most experienced backcountry freestyle guys out there?
I grew up riding icy pipe in Quebec, traveling around for contests and hitting the odd street spot, but I got to visit Whistler one summer at a young age and knew that I belonged in the mountains of Western Canada. When the first real snowfall in Whistler happened, I realized there was a whole side to snowboarding that I hadn’t experienced. Even though we have some of the best terrain parks on earth, my priority became riding powder and bringing freestyle into natural terrain. A few years later I bought my first snowmobile and got a real taste of the backcountry. At 21, I got an email asking if I wanted to coach backcountry freestyle in Argentina. 14 years later and SASS is still one of the most important parts of my life.
How many years have you been building jumps in Argentina? Your career?
I’ve been building backcountry kickers for something like 16 years, and the past 14 summers I’ve been building them in Argentina with countless campers and clients. Wow… that’s pretty rad!
How many people do you think you have taught how to build a backcountry jump?
That’s a crazy question to think about, but it would be easily north of 400. I think I’m probably low balling myself haha… I really really love showing people how to build sick jumps in natural terrain, I mean, backcountry freestyle is literally my favorite thing to do in life.
What is the most important thing to consider when building a backcountry jump?
The tough thing about backcountry jumps is that there are a ton of factors to consider. Landing slope, snow quality, takeoff slope, in-run speed and angle, building a structurally sound jump that won’t crumble, how much kick you want/need, and there’s always weather and light. It can be pretty tough sometimes, and the willingness to put 5 hours into a build can be discouraging as well. When it works though, it’s the best feeling in the world.
How is hitting a backcountry jump different from hitting a park jump?
Sometimes you can recreate the same type of speed and takeoff as you might have in the park, but the struggle of stomping tricks in deep snow, and then shortly after, in a bombed out landing, is a whole new game. Unfortunately, most backcountry jumps aren’t that straight forward, so you are limited to one spinning direction. Step-down jumps, where you are doing more falling than flight curve, will limit the kinds of tricks you will want to try as well. It’s really all about picking the trick and style that is right for the jump, rather than trying a trick that just won’t work for that type of feature.
Your groups don’t just build jumps, you hit natural features as well. How do you teach people how to choose features and how to approach them differently than airs they are used to?
I think that natural features are probably the coolest, but undoubtedly harder to do tricks on. Most of it translates from learning how to read terrain, how something that looks good from far away or from below, can easily be much different when you’re on the top of the line. That could mean that its a blind line and you can’t spot your takeoff from the top, or maybe that perfect looking diving board takeoff is actually a wall that you can’t actually ride, and of course the flat landing factor. It’s a tough game but as you get more experience you can really read the terrain before you drop in, and also mid slope if things are different than you expected, you can learn to adjust and make decisions on the fly while keeping your fluidity. Keeping safety in mind is always important, but sometimes you just have to send it!
What is the most common misconception of building a backcountry jump?
The amount of work involved, no question. To build a quality kicker, you’re gonna have to move literal TONS of snow, and still have the juice to hit the thing. You gotta pay to play!
What’s your favorite thing about jump builds at SASS?
Everything about it is my favorite, but the coolest thing is that every time we have jump crews, the other groups always end up coming by our spot to watch and cheer us on, and the level of support and positive vibes is through the roof.
As a coach, what are your strongest assets?
Aside from my experience and knowledge, I know just how good it feels to learn or experience something new in snowboarding, and I genuinely love sharing that feeling with everyone that I get to coach. My whole life and career has been about progression, but in a very fun way, and I think I’ve been really successful in sharing that with everyone I ride with. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside hahahaha!
This is the 4th year of ZEAL Week at SASS Argentina. What do you have in store for those looking to make it down?
I can’t wait for ZEAL Week this summer! We’re gonna have some of the same stuff going on like “Beacons and Beers” the pong tournament, and some other new events that give clients a chance to win ZEAL goggles and sunglasses. I’m stoked that my good buddy and ZEAL Rider, DCP is coming to hang, guest coach and shred as well! It’s my favorite week of the summer, and starts on my birthday! I can’t wait.
What’s the deal with this SASS Canada thing?
I’ve spent the last 13 years riding and filming predominantly in the Whistler backcountry VIA snowmobile access, and I have been developing a program with SASS that we launched this season. Snowmobile accessed guided riding in some of the best backcountry terrain in the world, and my backyard. This gives me the opportunity to share with our clients what I think is the best place in the entire universe. Words can’t possibly describe the experience, so join me at SASS Canada, and check out my Instagram and web series, TURN & BURN, on TransWorld Snowboarding to see what we ride on the daily… careful, you might just have your mind blown!
For more about ZEAL Week 2018 at SASS Argentina CLICK HERE
For more about DMOS Collective and their backcountry jump building tools CLICK HERE
For more about SASS Argentina CLICK HERE