Fresh look at equipment

RON MANZ -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

The free-ski community has taken its cue from the snowboard world and its own unique culture has been created.

It means equipment and clothes have also been designed to satisfy the wants and needs of this new alternative mountain enjoyment.

Fresh Sports Ltd. came on stream five years ago in Calgary, becoming the first store to concentrate totally on free skiing.

"I tried to determine where the youth market was heading when I opened my shop and I guessed twin tip and fat skis would catch on," said owner Steve Saranchuk. "Snowboarding has created its own distinct image over the years and now skiers are looking for their own identity, too. Manufacturers have responded and more and more lines are being created for skis and ski gear to satisfy the free ski world."

The free ski industry is now a million-dollar-a-year business for Saranchuk. He says his main clientele ranges in ages from 16 to 30, but even older more reserved skiers are own drifting to the twin-tip ski option for all-mountain performance and to buy the clothing that goes along with it.

He estimates that roughly 25-30% of all skiers on the mountains these days are actually on free-ski or free-ride equipment.

"What is happening in free skiing is totally influenced by what the kids want," says Saranchuk. "The skis are the jack-of-alltrade's models that will work great in every condition from powder to hard pack and on every slope from cut run to backcountry. We are seeing a lot of high-end skiers with expert abilities gravitating to free ski more and more. I'm also seeing a lot of snowboarders now taking up free skiing. In fact I would say about 15-20% of the people on the mountains now do both."

Fresh Sports has the top name brands in free ski gear like Orage, Line and Sessions, with Heli Hansen and North Face now developing lines as well. Smith and Oakley are also starting to concentrate on specific freeski wear.

"The equipment and clothing is designed to be a bit wild and extreme just like the people who use it,"adds Saranchuk.

"Free skiers are more athletic in nature and definitely more adventurous. They are looking to have a fun time with their buddies on the slopes, hooting and hollering through powder or cheering their pals as they do the jumps and flips in the terrain park or pipe. Free skiers are serious about their sport, they love doing it and want everything designed to help give them as much fun as possible doing it."

Fresh Sports Ltd. is located at 108-10th St. N.W. in Calgary.


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