Who's hot to watch in 2000?
by Nicole Dreon, Winter X Games skiboarding researcher
As of November 1999
Growth: Small and Large Companies
Both small and large companies are reaping the benefits of Skiboarding's growing popularity. During the 1999-2000 season, approximately 25 companies will manufacture skiboards. According to the SIA (SnowSports Industries America) Topline Retail Audit Report, the sale of skiboards brought in $11.4 million in the 1998-1999 season. This exceeded the sales from the '97-'98 season of $466,000 by 2364 percent. Kerry Perelmutter, President of Groove, says that most of Groove's sales are done over the Internet, and reports, "the percentage our sales went up can't even be counted." Line President Jason Levinthal, who only sold 30 pairs of skiboards his first year of business five years ago, expects to sell over 10,000 pairs in the '99-'00 season. Levinthal was featured in The New York Times Magazine, "Manufacturing the Next Extreme Sport," March '99. P.O.V. magazine wrote in their October '99 issue that Line sales are expected to reach $2 million in the '99-'00 season. Ted Wardlaw of Salomon said they expect to make about 25,000 skiboards this year for the Unites States alone. Wardlaw said that in Salomon's first few years of production, skiboard sales exceeded expectations. Recently sales have slowed down a bit, but they are still profitable. Amy Rochfard of Dynastar said they expect skiboard sales to increase 30-35 percent this season. Consumer: Aggressive and Recreational
Skiboards are suitable for a wide range of participants. The aggressive consumer falls into the 14-34 age range and spends most of his or her time in the terrain parks. Levinthal says, "We go mostly after an aggressive consumer." The recreational consumer uses skiboards because they have a short learning curve and are an easy way to enjoy a ski mountain. Mike Canon of Canon Skiboards says, "Skiboards are fun, affordable, and most importantly, they have the shortest learning curve of any snowriding device." Phil Mero, marketing manager for Hart Skis, told Wintersport Business in their March '99 issue, "We had trouble keeping them in stock in the Mid-West and New England. We are getting a lot of interest from instructors around the country and from crossover in the Mid-West. Skiboards can take the small areas and make them wide open again." Equipment
Changes to equipment have been minimal - except for fine-tuning. Skiboards are generally less than 100 centimeters and fatter than normal skis. They are a cross between a snowboard and a ski and function like an in-line skate for snow. Most large ski companies already have the right equipment to produce skiboards, so making them is an easy transition. The smaller, grass root companies work more directly with riders to customize their equipment. The maximum length for skiboards at Winter X is under 100 centimeters. Riders will be on skiboards as close to 100 centimeters as possible. The longer the skiboard, the better the platform is for landing. New Media
Two Plancker Knuckle Draggers: A Skiboarding film by Frontside Inc. Films. FIF also produced SB1, A Skiboarding Journey, in '98. Two Plancker Knuckle Draggers was released September 28, 1999.. Footage comes from the Line ski camp in Blackcomb, British Columbia, the Salomon summer camp in Tignes, France, the USS contest at Mountain High, the '99 Winter X Games, and Mike Nick and Jason Levinthal's trip to Japan. It is a great depiction of skiboard lifestyle, the latest tricks, moves, and riders. To date SB1 has sold 16,822 copies and TPKD has sold 3,200 copies. "720": A television show on Fox Sports Network that aired at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays from June to October. It was a half-hour program that followed aggressive skating, Skiboarding, bands, events, and tours. It was also produced by FIF, in conjunction with Anywhere Sports Production. Mother's Milk Magazine: First magazine solely dedicated to Skiboarding. It is a one-man show run by FTlix Rioux from Montreal, Quebec. The premiere issue came out in the fall of '99. Rioux printed 5,000 pamphlet-sized copies and distributed them for free. The next issue will come out the beginning of December. USS and WSF
After the '99 Winter X Games, the United Skiboard Series (USS) and the World Skiboarding Federation (WSF) were formed by Anywhere Sports Production. The USS is the competition series and WSF is the sanctioning body. The USS held its first event at Mountain High Resort, Calif., in March '99. Riders called it, "the best skiboard competition ever." Micah Fisher-Rhoese and Bryce Raney helped design and build the course. Over 30 competitors showed up. The event received media coverage from Fox Sports Net, Real TV and Frontside, Inc. Films. After the event the first ever WSF meeting was held. The goal of WSF, according to its presidents Mark Billik and Rick Stark, is to be an organization that is "run by the industry, and its people, with the sole purpose to help our industry grow in a healthy and successful fashion." Fisher-Rhoese said of USS, "You have to have competition for growth. In order for progression, kids have to be competing. USS brings competition all over, boosting the industry and making it bigger." The USS has four events slated for 2000:
Jan. 14-15 - TBD
Feb. 26-27 - Mountain High, CA
March 25-26 - Naeba, Japan
April 7-9 - Squaw Valley, CA International
CANADA: Line summer ski camp- Camp of Champions at Blackcomb, BC. Used to be just for skiers and snowboarders, this summer it included Skiboarding. Over 30 kids received tips from pro riders like Mike Nick and Jason Levinthal. EUROPE: Salomon held a camp for their international team in Tignes, France. Riders like Sebastien Lounis, Nicky Adams, Serge Maheu, Bryce Raney, and Jarred Flaherty got to train on the glacier and in the terrain parks. Raney, who switched from Canon to Salomon, said it was the first time he had ever left the country and it was amazing. Two skiboard events are scheduled for Europe this winter: Feb. 5 in Austria, and Feb. 12-13 in Germany. AUSTRALIA: Canon rider Micah Fisher-Rhoese attended the Australian Mobilenet Winter Extreme Games in August and won the gold in Big Air and Slopestyle. Fisher-Rhoese describes the Australian riders: "Australians are aggressive. The stereotype says this is a given. The country came up with and continues to dominate rugby... end of argument. Now bring this aggressiveness to Skiboarding on a big air hit, with a few hundred screaming fans and TV cameras everywhere... to say the Aussie riders were fired up would be an understatement!" Canon will have a team of Australian riders coming to the U.S. in December. JAPAN: "They treated me like a movie star," said Mike Nick, describing the hospitality he received while shooting Two Plancker Knuckle Draggers in Japan in May '99. Nick and teammate Jason Levinthal also hosted a Japanese Skiboarding camp and judged a Skiboarding contest. Nick said there must have been about 40-50 imitation skiboard models there. The smaller, more confined Japanese hills are conducive to Skiboarding. Japan is both Line and Salomon's largest international Skiboarding market.
Gold - Christopher Hawks: Will not compete on the pro mogul tour this year. Will focus mainly on big air skiing and Skiboarding. Says he doesn't feel any pressure to repeat his '99 Winter X Games performance because he didn't expect to win in '99. He said he stretched his ACL right before the '99 Winter X Games and didn't perform any of the tricks he is capable of doing. Spent the summer as a carpenter and working out new tricks on his trampoline. Wants to prove he is a legitimate skiboarder. "I don't think skiboarders like me very much from what I read on the Internet." Silver - Mike Nick: Knows the level of riding around him is picking up, but says, "It keeps me on my toes." Feels like a gold medal at Winter X is totally within his reach, because-- his bag of tricks is solid, difficult, and diverse. "I want to win it like there is no tomorrow. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, but I want to destroy." Has spent a lot of time on skiboards since the '99 Winter X Games. When asked what he will be doing five years from now, he said, "I wouldn't mind being Tony Hawk, riding until I am 31." Bronze - Bryce Raney: Got to ride in Tignes, France, this summer at the Salomon ski camp. Also worked as a greenskeeper at the local golf course in Tahoe City. Says he is working on bio's and flat spins. Thinks he can definitely do them but, "It will just take time to get used to." From Triple Air back to Slopestyle
The 2000 Winter X Games will return to a Slopestyle format after a one-year foray into the Triple Air discipline. According to riders, Slopestyle is much more representative of Skiboarding. A Slopestyle course should include: handrails, quarter pipes, half pipe, spines, table tops, gaps, banks, etc. "I am super psyched about Slopestyle, people will really be able to see what we do," said Mike Nick. "Yeah, the Triple Air sucked," noted Brinton Gundersen. Riders said that the Triple Air did not differentiate the "true" skiboarders from those riders who were just primarily in-line skaters, or skiers. Triple Air only required riders to do three similar jumps, whereas Slopestyle will require riders to perform several various tricks. A Slopestyle course benefits the rider with both an in-line and skiing/snowboarding background. Slopestyle forces the rider to use the terrain, land jumps smoothly, and style transitions. An in-line skater with little experience on the snow will struggle with this aspect of the course. The same goes for a cross-over skier who isn't used to doing railslides or launching and landing fakie. He will be able to ski smoothly between the transitions, but his style may not be truly innovative. The best riders will be the ones who are as comfortable sliding across a handrail as they are carving turns on Vermont's potentially icy conditions. The "IN" Tricks for 2000
Skiboarding has always been influenced by in-line skating and snowboarding. When in-liners start doing new tricks, these tricks eventually find their way to the mountains. The last thing skiboarders want to copy is old school ski tricks like daffies, twists, etc. Here are a few of the tricks riders will be doing at Winter X. According to Jason Levinthal, "If your best trick is a 540, you're not on the invite list for Winter X". Fakie Back Flip Liu Kang - Rider approaches jump fakie, does a backflip with a liu kang (a grab where rider extends one leg out like a karate kick and tucks other one next to body, which he grabs), then lands jump fakie.
Fakie Bio 900 - Rider approaches jump fakie, spins 2 + rotations on an axis and lands forward.
Side Flip 180 - Rider approaches jump forward, does what looks like a cartwheel through the air, then lands backwards. Known in skiing as Lincoln Loop, or maybe called the Maheu Flip, after Serge Maheu.
Flat Spin 540 - Rider approaches jump forward. His body neither goes totally inverted or straight up--but sideways. He spins 1+ rotations and lands backwards.
Fakie Zero Spin Rocket Air - Rider hits jump fakie, stays backwards the entire time he is in the air, extends both legs in front of him and uses one hand to grab the skiboard opposite of hand.
Rodeo 720 Safety - Rider does a barrel roll backflip with a 360-degree rotation. During rotation he brings his knees to his chest and grabs left skiboard with left hand.
Misty 720 Safety - Same as rodeo, but with a front flip
Grabs, grabs and more grabs - a grab is when a rider uses his hand to hold onto the skiboard in a particular spot while keeping a specified body position. "Everyone should be grabbing every trick," said Mike Nick. Riders who want to intensify a grab will also "tweak" it by increasing the amount of body contortion beyond the minimum required to accomplish the particular grab. Rodeos/Mistys - If a rider does a backflip it should be a rodeo. (An almost back flip with either a 180 or 360 rotation in the middle.) If he does a front flip it should be a misty. (Same thing as a rodeo only forward.) Totally inverted anything is out, while anything off axis is in. Riders should be able to grind and jib, which is sliding on handrails and other various objects. Not only should a rider be able to do a railslide, he should be able to approach that handrail fakie. Launching and landing fakie, where a rider takes off and lands backwards, should be second nature. If a rider really wants to push the limit he will add flatspins to his bag of tricks. During a flatspin, a rider is neither totally upside down while spinning, nor straight up, but sideways. The only rider to do a flatspin at the '99 Winter X Games was Neal Lyons, with a flatspin 540. Clean landings are a must for any rider who wants to medal. Who's Hot for 2000
Mike Nick: Nick has one of the most impressive Skiboarding backgrounds around. He has participated in the sport since it originated and is a leader to those following behind him. He is a skier, snowboarder, skateboarder, and in-line skater. He envisions how the sport should be progressing, and he pushes himself to be at the forefront.
Brinton Gundersen: Gundersen started Skiboarding a few days before the December '98 X Trials in Vermont, and by the USS event in March at Mountain High, he was sitting on the podium. Salmon pro-rider, Tayt Tindal told Kerry Perelmutter that the overall golden child of the Mountain High event was Brinton Gundersen. Gundersen also won the World Snakeboard Championships in Italy this summer for the third year in a row. Snakeboarding is a combination of in-line skating and skateboarding. Add this to Gundersen's skiing and snowboarding skills, and he was destined to be a skiboarder.
Micah Fisher-Rhoese: Fisher-Rhoese has experience and maturity on his side. He's a natural athlete who started Skiboarding five years ago and now makes it his lifestyle. He won the Big Air and Slopestyle at the Australian Mobilenet Winter Extreme Games. The Not SO Dark, Dark Horses Nicky Adams, Serge Maheu, Jean Gagnon: These Canadians have impressive in-line skating backgrounds (Adams won the '99 X Games gold in In-line Street). The three are rumored to have picked up Skiboarding rather quickly and what to expect from them will depend on the amount of time they spend on the hill between now and Winter X. Maheu won the Big Air competition at Mountain High in March '99, but Slopestyle will require a more extensive set of Skiboarding skills. Mike Nick said that he is taking Gagnon under his wing to teach him the skiing aspect of Skiboarding. The talent is there with these three; it is just a matter of commitment.
Peter Mithoefer: This young, quiet rider from Vermont invented a move caught on Two Plancker Knuckle Draggers that Mike Nick said no one could figure out, but it was cool. Mithoefer sat out the '99 Winter X Games when he got injured in practice. Teammates say he has been stepping it up. He is a 17 year old Vermonter with dreds bigger than he is (he only weighs 115 lbs).
Bryce Raney: Raney started Skiboarding with Fisher-Rhoese in Colorado five years ago. He is solid and well respected by his peers. He stood on the podium in '99, and there is no reason for him not to do it again.
Cameron Forsythe: Forsythe won the Slopestyle competition at Mountain High in March '99. He has skiboard competition experience and a skiing background-good for the Winter X Slopestyle.
Reg Pare: Both Mike Nick and Jason Levinthal speak highly of Pare. Pare just missed qualifying at the '98 Winter X Qualifer, but Nick said Pare has been on fire ever since then.
Chris Hawks: Hawks won the '99 Winter X Games because he was big, smooth, and clean. If he integrates more of the technical aspect of Skiboarding into his riding, he will be in the running again.
Who Else Could Qualify?
Where, when, and if there will be a qualifier for the remaining five spots still remains to be seen. Sport organizer Mark Shays says that there is the potential for a lot of riders to come out of the woodwork internationally. No one has really seen any of the new Australian riders. Europe is also turning out more and more skiboarders. The winner of the '98 Winter X Qualifier, Jarred Flaherty, didn't make the qualifying list but is still a strong contender as well.
East Coast vs. West Coast
Everyone knows that skiers and snowboarders from the East Coast are more accustomed to ice, man-made snow, and cold conditions. So whether the East Coast skiboarders are going to have an advantage over those from the sunnier skies and natural snow of the West remains to be seen. Several skiboarders who currently live in the West grew up skiing in the East, like Fisher-Rhoese, Hawks, and Jon Sanderman. For some riders with in-line skating backgrounds, (Adams, Gagnon, Maheu, Lyons), ice is still softer than pavement anyway. Riders like Nick and Mithoefer, who live in Vermont, will probably be more comfortable on the hill if the conditions do turn out to be cold and icy. If it rains however, Eric Pollard, from Oregon may have the biggest advantage.
Skiboarders have always struggled for acceptance from skiers and snowboarders and slowly they are getting it - but not without earning it. "We are still ski-tards, but it hasn't bothered me before. If they talk crap I'll just come out on my longer skis." -Micah Fisher-Rhoese
"Skiers are starting to catch up, as much as they don't like to admit it. We've been doing stuff way before they have." -Bryce Raney
"There are some kids who are cheesy. Normally when you hear (people talking smack) it is from the ones that suck. A lot of freeskiers are starting to see what we are doing, and they kind of steal our tricks. Once snowboarding became popular, kids needed to look for something else that their parents weren't doing and now that's Skiboarding." -Mike Nick Nick said at the Line summer camp in Blackcomb, several pro freeskiers complimented his riding style and encouraged him to enter Freeze magazine's Big Air contest. Nick declined.
Odds and Ends
Salomon poster boy Tayt Tindal announced his retirement. "It's time to move one," Tindal said. ... Line moved its office to Burlington, Vt. Canon relocated to Venice Beach, Calif.