New toys for the slopes
March 1, 2002
By Jennifer Reeder
Special to the
Itís official: Snowboards arenít the passing
trend some skiers had hoped theyíd be. And with the success of
the U.S. Olympic Snowboarding team in Salt Lake City, the
sportís popularity is destined to grow even more.
But there are other trends developing as
winter enthusiasts seek alternative on-slope activities.
Hereís a look at some of the snow toys vying to be the next
Itís hard to predict which will last and
which will fade away. (Anyone remember Big Feet? Ballet
skiing?) After all, who could have foreseen that something
originally called a "Snurfer" Ė one of the first snowboards Ė
would become a source of national pride?
20, of Hesperus, rides a rail on a snowskate at the base
of Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort on Sunday. The
binding-less decks are good for doing flip tricks on the
snow because they are not attached to the feet.
"Snowskates are a definite trend this
season," said Julie Lynch, director of market research for
SnowSports Industries America, a nonprofit trade association.
"You can do it anywhere, and theyíre cheap."
Snowskates are a kind of skateboard for snow,
sans wheels. There are two styles: a board that is basically a
skateboard deck, and a board with a small ski, or "snowblade,"
attached to the underside of the deck.
Bubba Iudice, 32, owner of Bubbaís Boards, at
Purgatory, said since snowskates are not attached to the feet
like snowboards, they offer more flexibility in doing certain
tricks. "Snowboards are strapped to your feet Ė with
(snowskates) you can do flip tricks," he said. "And you can do
it in your front yard without much snow."
Iudice has sold 30 snowskates in the last two
months, he said. They range in price from $60 to $160.
Iudice said snowskates without a ski are
better for tricks like "pop shuvits" and "kick flips," while
snowskates with a ski runner Ė which were pioneered by Burton
and are sometimes called snowdecks Ė are better for long runs
on the ski slopes.
"Itís the best new snow sport around," said
Dan Harshberger, a 22-year-old snowskater who lives near
Durango Mountain Resort. "I use it to run my dogs at
Andy Wolf, owner of Premiere Snowskates, a
Portland, Ore.-based manufacturer of snowskates without the
ski runner, founded the company in November 2000. He sold
5,000 in his first year, and 30,000 in the second. This season
he has sold more than 50,000, he said.
"Itís through the roof," he said.
Wolf said a snowskate demonstration at the
February X Games generated a lot of excitement, and that it is
"almost guaranteed" that snowskating will be included in
future X Games.
Snowskates with leashes are permitted at
Durango Mountain Resort in the terrain park, Iudice
supervisor of the ski and snowboard school at Durango
Mountain Resort, assumes a favorite snowbike position
It may not look as cool as a snowskate, but
the snowbike is another snow toy that may make its way into
the X Games. In fact, a snowbike demonstration at this yearís
Olympics caught the eye of NBC, which will visit Durango
Mountain Resort in March to film snowbikes in action.
Snowbikes are the bright-yellow contraptions
occasionally seen on the mountain, consisting of a frame with
a seat and handlebars mounted on small skis where the wheels
would be. Snowbikers wear regular ski boots that clip into
snowblades, or miniskis.
The resort offers 2Ĺ-hour snowbike lessons
twice a day for $40, plus $10 for certification. After
certification, the 15-pound bikes can be rented for $15 for a
half day and $30 full-day. Since certification was introduced
Jan. 20, snowbike lessons have jumped from one a week to
several lessons a day, said Mike Muir, supervisor of the ski
and snowboard school at the resort.
Snowbiking is easy to learn and a great
alternative for people with knee, hip or back problems, Muir
"Itís so easy to pick up," said Bill
Patterson, a 29-year-old Durango resident who had
reconstructive foot surgery on both feet in January 2001.
After the operation, he had to learn how to walk again, and
relearning to ski was a slow process. Patterson tried
snowbiking and has done it at least 15 times since, he
Other snowbike enthusiasts say they like the
"extreme" aspect of the sport.
"Iíve been skiing (at Purgatory) since 1965 Ė
opening day," said Roy Meiworm, lift operations manager at the
resort. "After riding snowbikes for the last four years, Iíve
been seeing parts of the mountain that Iíve never seen
before." Meiworm is one of several resort employees who
regularly blaze trails through trees, over logs and off jumps.
But snowbike safety is stressed at the resort, Meiworm
"If someone had gotten killed snowboarding
years ago, we probably wouldnít have snowboarding today,"
Snowbiking has been around in Europe for more
than 50 years, where the snowbike is known as a skibob, and
competitions are held virtually every week during winter,
according to the Federation Internationale de Skibob Web site
Following on the heels of the shaped-ski
revolution are twin-tip skis, which feature an upturned tip in
the back as well as the front. Twin-tips are popular for doing
aerial tricks in terrain parks like landing backwards off a
jump, said John Fullington, manager of Performance Sports, at
Typically, women use between 150-centimeter
and 160-centimeter twin-tips, while men might use
170-centimeter to 180-centimeter twin-tips, Fullington said.
Twin-tips skis cost about $20 to rent at Performance Sports,
Although Durango Mountain Resort does not
rent twin tips, it uses a relative of twin-tip skis in its ski
classes, Dynastarís Agyl model of "new generation shaped
skis," said Mark Garrity, adult ski school manager. The skis
arenít true twin tips because the tailís length and shape
isnít identical to the front end.
It usually costs $17 for a half-day rental
and $29 for a full-day at the resort.
Twin-tips are used by freestyle Olympians
and, coupled with snowskates, are this seasonís "biggest
thing," said Lynch, of SnowSports Industries. On the way out
are skiboards, a.k.a. snowblades, a.k.a. miniskis.
"(Sales) are down 25 percent compared to last
year," said Lynch.
But locally, snowblades are still popular
with tourists from Texas, Fullington said.
The 90-centimeter snowblades rent for $13 a
day at Performance Sports.
Jenny Reeder, a free-lance writer living in
Durango, is still waiting for bright-red Moon Boots to come
back. Reach her at