Twin-tip skis reform sport

RON MANZ -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

What was old is new again.

The advent of snowboarding made skiing passe a number of years ago.

It wasn't cool or hip to be a skier if you had the chance to be a snowboarder.

But the invention of twin-tip skis and a movement towards fat skis has led to free ski or free ride being the in thing to do on the slopes.

"Kids are gravitating to free ski because youth culture sees it as the new alternative," says Rocky Mountain Free Riders head coach Kevin Hjertaas.

"Snowboarding got that reputation years ago when it was new and it was cool to do. Now that it's in the Olympics and there's more structure to it as a result, it's become too mainstream for many people who want to simply hit the slopes to have fun and be more adventurous."

The new twin-tip fat skis with shape are the ultimate all-mountain equipment. Technically, they provide top-notch performance in every type of condition from backcountry to deep powder and from Terrain Park and pipe to groomed runs.

Overall, the skis allow for better mobility no matter what terrain the user is in compared to snowboards.

"It's at the point where the kids don't get hassled as a skier anymore," laughs Kevin Bernier, one of the coaches of the Alberta Free Skiers Club. "Free skiers have their own identity now and we actually are seeing about a 50-50 split now between skiers and snowboarders. The new skis are more maneuverable and have opened up a lot more terrain for the users while providing new experiences for them that weren't available in past."

The rapid rise in free-ski interest has had a mushroom effect on free-ride or free-ski clubs and every mountain resort offers programs and courses in learning proper techniques for free ride.

"We were the first free-ride club in Canada seven years ago," points out Hjertaas. "We area club for youngsters aged 10 to 18 who have an expert level of ability, meaning they can ski every run at Lake Louise. Our enrollment has more than doubled the past two years as interest in free ride has grown."

It's the same scenario at the Alberta Free Skiers Club. It just started three years ago and its enrollment went from 10 last year to 35 this year.

"We find a lot of youngsters have been enrolled in racing clubs but they find they really aren't that interested in such a competitive environment," adds Bernier.

"Our object is to give them an opportunity to try something new, that is fun, but at the same time gives them better all-mountain capabilities. Racers have very strong fundamental skills, so it's easy to teach them the tricks that make going into a terrain park or half-pipe more fun.

"They also have normally have the ability and daring that go hand-in-hand with some of the more extreme terrain of all-mountains skiing."

Both the Rocky Mountain Free Riders and Alberta Free Skiers Clubs concentrate on instruction in fundamentals for tricks that can be performed on the rails, table tops and jumps of terrain parks or in a half-pipe.

They also work on developing the knowledge and skill it takes to be competent in deep powder or extreme steeps.


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