Skiboards: A New Thrill-a-Minute Craze
Until recently, the two accepted ways of getting down a mountain have been either to strap two long, thin boards to one’s boots and slide down, or to firmly attach one’s feet to a single board and do the same.
Now, there’s skiboarding, a gleeful mix of skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and in-line skating that could well be the next big thing. Also called snowblades, ski blades, mini-skis, microskis and in-line skis, skiboards are twin-tipped boards about half as long and twice as wide as regular skis that attach to regular ski boots (snowboard boots) with ski release bindings, snowboard bindings or fixed, nonreleasable binding.
Skiboards can spin like skates, and go backward and forward, carve and get big air like snowboards, but unlike snowboards, the two-footed design wipes out the long learning curve for the sport. Likewise, the shorteraa length (usually from 70-90 centimeters — about 28-36 inches) eliminates the crossed tips and face plants that often frustrate novice skiers and drive them off the slopes.
”We’ve been getting a lot of calls about skiboards from people who are tired of trying to get good on skis,” said Doc Roberts, a skiboard dealer from Boulder, Colo. ”Skiboards are not much longer than snowshoes and we’ve seen not only skiers but snowboarders and skaters converting as well. They’re just plain fun.”
At Camelback Mountain recently, a team of skiers and riders ranging in age from 12 to 47 years old tested three different makes of skiboards — the Kosmos Comp ($349), which look like mini snowboards for your feet; the original Salomon SnowBlade ($249), which is widely available for rent at ski areas, and the Gauer Blades ($250), which are intended for snow dancing and tricks. The testing took place on Camelback’s many wide novice and intermediate cruising trails and on some of the more challenging trails in the Poconos as well.
The overall verdict? With its 10-second learning curve, skiboarding offered virtually instant fun for everyone, which is good news for absolute beginners. All three products were pronounced cool by the younger skiers and riders, who enjoyed the feeling of skiing while being able to do tricks as if they were on in-line skates or go off hits as if they were on a snowboard.
The older testers, who ranged in ability from terminal intermediate to professional ski instructor, also gave the skiboards a thumbs up, particularly the Kosmos Comp, which seemed more like an actual piece of equipment rather than just a snow toy to play with occasionally. At 77 centimeters (about 32 inches) long, even the intermediate skiboarders were able to carve like pros and handle Camelback’s tougher terrain with confidence.
The 90-centimeter (about 36 inches) Gauer Blade, manufactured in Italy for its designer, the snow dancer Richard Gauer of Sparta, N.J., looks more like a cut-down ski than a skiboard. Like a figure skate, the boards are actually curved upward from the center, which makes spins and tricks very easy and made them popular with the younger testers.
The original Salomon SnowBlades, which this year are called Buzz, handled more like an in-line skate or even an ice skate.
Salomon was the first big company to market skiboards (K2 has since come out with the Fatty while Dynastar is promoting its Twin) and its SnowBlades are available for rent at many resorts, including Camelback. The one drawback is the height limitation — users must be over 5 feet tall and weigh more than 100 pounds.
Line is one of the companies that has jumped into this gap with its Kicker 76, a 76-centimeter (about 30 inches) model for skiboarders under 5 feet. It was tested at Okemo over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend and was highly rated by the youngsters who took them through the halfpipe and the terrain park.
Although the original Big Foot, made by KD Sports, came out more than a decade ago, skiboarding did not exist as a sport until 1995. At the recent Winter X Games at Crested Butte, Mont., the former freestyle skier Chris Hawks edged last year’s winner, Mike Nick, for the gold medal in skiboarding competition. Other than the Salomon SnowBlades, skiboards are not easy to find (cruising the Web netted a half-dozen grassroots companies as well as sites for dealers), but several ski areas provide them for demonstrations.
By Jenny Kellner
- Feb. 18, 1999