Andrew Burns has never been afraid to work for it. The Ottawa native cut his teeth on boarding young, busting ass to get to Camp of Champs at the ripe age of 14. That summer his riding attracted the attention of Ken Achenbach, a legendary pioneer of Blackcomb freestyle who’s entrepreneurial achievements in the Canadian snowboard industry had given him more than sufficient background for recognizing work ethic and determination. Burns had both in spades, and Ken hired him on as a COC coach when he was 16. From there, Burns fast-tracked high school in Ontario so he could make the permanent move to Whistler as soon as possible. He was 18 when he packed up for a life of chasing pow. He’s been doing OK at it too, with multiple video parts and web series documenting his man’s man backcountry freestyle and a pro-model on D-Day Snowboards. Actually, maybe he’s been doing a bit better than OK. We caught Burns cruising the Bowly with his D-Day teammates and managed to pull him aside for a few laps and some chairlift chatter. Interview’s below– you know what to do!
SBC: Hey man, good to see you! What’s new?
Burns: Vacation man! Just taking some mellow laps and enjoying the no-stress program. So nice to just board!
SBC: Yeah dude, another big season for you eh? You’ve been all over.
Burns: For sure, lots of travel. Japan, China, and just getting after it at home. It’s been non-stop.
SBC: And you go down to Argentina in the summer too yeah?
Burns: Yeah, with SASS. I’m guiding down there, helping people find pow and get in the air if they want more of a freestyle program. We’re expanding, too, and doing some sled shred stuff down there. It’s wicked, I’m stoked to be a part of that family. Skyler [Holgate] is so dialed, it’s been rad to work with him apprenticing as a guide and just getting better in the backcountry. But with all of it in I’m boarding 10 months a year.
SBC: And between the sled battle and getting clients after it it’s definitely work.
Burns: For sure! I mean, I wouldn’t do anything else and I love every minute of it, but it’s so nice to just chill out and take soul laps. This course is so perfect for it too, just pockets of fun everywhere. It’s like it gets more fun the more relaxed you are, when you’re trying to nail that one feature you get tunnel vision and miss like 20 awesome hits.
SBC: Yeah, the cruisers are the best. How was China?
Burns: China was wild. It was one of those things where you had to just enjoy it for the experience. I was down there with the Fix Bindings crew and we kind of got skunked. The boarding definitely wasn’t the reason that trip was cool. I had to keep telling myself “man you’re in China, just enjoy it and forget about riding for a bit.” So we took in the culture. Once we realized we needed to get a tonne of beer things started getting more fun, too.
We laugh. Burns is a raw character; he’s spent the past decade and change learning how to get himself into some of the most complicated mountain terrain in the world, and in doing so he’s learned to cut the bullshit. He’s got the air of a dude who can fire up at a party, and he doesn’t try to hide who he is. Still, throughout our talk he’s nothing but professional. He’s focused on the conversation, despite the show of raucous boarding competing for our attention in the Bowly and around the mountain.
SBC: Is there potential there? Worth checking out?
Burns: There’s potential. It would be hard though, you’d have to be on it with organizing and learning about the zones. We were kind of along for the ride on that trip, not doing our own logistics or anything, and the people who put it together were a bit gongy. We’d be waiting with boots on at seven and boarding at noon kind of thing.
SBC: Bummer. It’s tough to be on it in a foreign spot. I guess with the guiding and stuff you’re getting pretty good at organizing your own missions and finding pow eh?
Burns: For sure, the more you learn the more you understand what the snow will be like at different spots on the mountain, different aspects and elevations. It’s a huge bonus to getting better with the backcountry safety stuff. Safety’s cool, and super important out there, but when you start realizing that you always know where the snow’s good that’s when the guiding and education stuff really gets exciting.
SBC: And you’re getting into guiding a bit in AK as well?
Burns: A bit, yeah. I’ve got a strong relationship with SEABA from filming with them, and I’ve been talking to guys at Alaska Heliskiing as well. The dudes up there are helping me set myself up so I can take guests heliboarding in the future. Jeff [Pensiero] at Baldface is helping out as well, pushing me to take the next courses. You need a pretty high level of education to be a lead guide in Canada– right now I’m certified to guide in Argentina and the States, but in Canada I have to be under someone else’s wing.
Burns is humble, and nonchalant as he brings up opportunities he’s worked hard to take advantage of. Guiding is a huge commitment, and earning the mentorship of established guides does not come without demonstrating dedication. The years Burns has spent apprenticing with Skylar at SASS are certain to have seen him tested by storms, exhaustion, and sketchy snow conditions. He’ll have put in countless hours digging pits for snowpack observations, monitoring weather, and tailoring mountain experiences to the abilities and expectations of his guests.
SBC: That’s so rad. When I went out with AK Heli our guide was my hero. So sick to have someone take you to the top of the best run of your life and tell you you’re good to go.
Burns: Haha, exactly. It’s really rewarding getting people out, and then you get to shred the line too.
SBC: Hell yeah. How bout D-Day? All good there?
Burns: Yeah man! The D-Day program is awesome, we’re just doing our thing. Not trying to be the biggest or be all competitive, just making good boards. It’s rider owned and all the guys are on the same program, ride and sell some boards.
SBC: Perfect. How did you get involved?
Burns: I’ve known Nico [Nolan] for a long time, he’s a co-founder. I guess he floated my name to [Chris] Roach, and Roach called me up. I just about shit myself getting that call, Roach man!
SBC: Legend. And you’re here with the team, yeah?
Burns: Yup. It’s rad, because we never get together with everyone. But that’s what this event is, sun, slush, tranny, no stress, and homies. It’s like 200 homies having a good time.
We shred a bit, take some photos. Burns has freestyle fundamentals on lock, and watching him ride it’s easy to see the passion that Achenbach, Holgate, Pensiero, and Roach have picked up on. The dude’s a boarder through and through.