Sunday, October 7, 2012

Freeskiing Basics

As I sit here in central Indiana, winter has arrived out west with several Colorado ski resorts set to open this week. To anyone who has ever skied or snowboarded, the allure of fresh powder so early is tantalizing.

Having just watched The Art of Flight I am even more ready for our first snow. The Art of Flight, called by critics the best snowboarding movie of all-time, features Travis Rice and his crew throwing some of the craziest moves ever attempted on some of the world's gnarliest lines. The film is a little over an hour long and my friends and I have already watched it multiple times.

I've also been spending al ot of time lately on the New Schoolers website. This is a forum-based website where people can discuss the "new school" style of skiing; freeskiing. Like the name implies, freeskiing is completely unrestricted with the only boundaries being the skill and daring of the skier. Subsets of freeskiing include park, pipe, and jibbing.

Park skiing takes place, obviously, in the terrain park. This is a place on a ski resort, usually a shorter run, or sometimes even its own area serviced by its own lift. The park is made up of a combination of jumps, rails, and boxes for the skiers (and also snowboarders) to perform tricks.

Jumps are self-explanatory, but can range in size from small "kickers" to Winter X Games behemoths with 60+ ft gaps. Skiers launch themselves off the jumps into a variety of flips, spins, and grabs. One of the appeals of freeskiing is that everyone can start off with almost no skills and can eventually perform tricks. My best to date so far is a 360 Safety, a maneuver that involves spinning in a complete circle while grabbing the bottom of my ski under my boot.

Boxes and rails are exactly what they sound like, and are platforms for the skiers to slide or "grind" down. This entails turning 90 degrees (or a larger multiple of 90 if you're good) and landing on the rail, keeping your balance, and spinning again to land forwards (or backwards) at the bottom.

Pipe skiing is the most dangerous type of freeskiing, and is therefore only attempted by the most advances skiers. A superpipe is a half cylinder built into the side of the hill that allows the skiers to rocket up and out of the pipe, sometimes as high as 25ft above the lip (and maybe twice that above the bottom of the pipe) while flipping, spinning, and grabbing, before returning back to the pipe, only to launch themselves out on the other side. The injuries in the superpipe are usually severe, and, last winter, Sarah Burke, the best women's pipe skier on the planet, was killed when she hit her head during practice.

Finally, there is jibbing, the favorite activity of my friends and I.  Jibbing takes place on the hill itself, not in the park. As you ski down, you look for natural features that you can grind on (such as ledges or shelves in the snow) as well as little kickers that form, especially in the trees. This style is my favorite because it is all about creativity and no two runs are ever the same. You are constantly looking for new features and new ways to hit them.

Unfortunately for me, winter is still a few months away here in Indiana. But, until then, I will keep reading, watching, and waiting for that magical first snow.

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