Tail Grabs and Misty Flips | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 24.11.2001
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Tail Grabs and Misty Flips

The ski jumping world cup has just begun, but shooting off heights is not just restricted to this professional sport. Young people are jumping off snowy cliff tops while freeriding – skiing down unsecured, wild slopes.


Whee! Free-riding in the snow

No more fluorescent overalls and thick, woolly sweaters. No more quiet, sunny skiing slopes and comfortable, crackling open fires. Skiing – and the things associated with it – have changed tremendously, whether clothes, equipment or style.

This development has a lot to do with the so-called new-school skiers. According to SnowSports Industries America (SIA), a nonprofit association representing ski, snowboard and other winter sports companies, the youth-inspired freestyle revolution is making a heavy impact on the ski industry.

Ski freestyling, which has its roots in snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing, has changed skiing from the easy ride down the slope to new ways of using those two long planks.

During the 90s, teens were drawn to snowboarding by its coolness and the hip clothing, music and the tricks which all belonged to this popular sport. Simple tricks soon turned to complicated "720"s, tail grabs and misty flips and soon, snowboarding became more than just a trend.

Backwards and forwards

But these days, the skiers are taking over the halfpipes – what used to be snowboarding terrain. New, twin-tip skis make tricks easier and allow skiers to ski both forwards and backwards without a bat of an eyelid.

There is no doubt: New-school skiing is re-energizing the sport. But the sports market too. New types of skis are flooding the market: Two years ago, men's skis were around 195-198 cm. Today, most skis aren't longer than 190 cm. The wider and shorter they are, the easier it is to float through snow powder – essential for freeriding and for landing, after a jump off a 20 m cliff.

Clothing for the extreme terrain

Boots are also changing, and now have elevated, schock-absorbing inner soles and cushy footbeds for soft landings. Not to forget the retro look. Freeriders today chose the colourful trendy clothing of the snowboarder, but are also highly aware of the dangers of skiing on unsecure slopes and watch out for well insulated, light and technical clothing. The same goes for helmets and gloves.

But the most obvious change must be in the way skiing is seen by kids and teens. Skiing is no longer praised in ads as being healthy, peaceful and a generally wonderful pastime. Instead, the new, young ski culture derives from youth ski magazines like the Boulder-based Freeze and ski films showing wild jumps and fast moves.

And although snowboarding is still extremely popular, more and more youths are taking to skis. In the US, since 1999, around twice the amount of children take to skis than to snowboarding. However, snowboarding is still extremely popular.

This does not just go for the US. In Germany, young people are preparing for the jumps, tricks and the fun in this year's winter ski season, whether on one, or two boards. 10,000 youngsters alone took part in a snowboarding freestyle event on the top of the "Zugspitze" mountain in Germany. Their motto: "higher, faster, further".

And the new trends in gear, equipment and fashion are already filling the shelves of sports shops, well in time for the Christmas season. lb