A Little Board of Skiing 3
Author thumbnail By Matthew Graham, DCSki Columnist

I first saw skiboards three years ago while standing in a lift line in Colorado. A group of middle-aged German women came tearing down the slopes on these short things that I initially thought were children’s skis. The women also lacked any ski poles, making the spectacle even more peculiar. But what was weirder than anything was the fact that they were all giggling incessantly as they scrambled for words to describe their experience. Since they were speaking German, I had no idea of what was going on. Seeing my puzzled look, the lift attendant explained that the women were demo-ing the latest thing - skiboards.

I love the winter and have a great time whenever I go skiing. But, like many others, I’m always working on my carving technique. This sometimes causes me to be lost in concentration. I’ve never giggled like a maniac while cruising down the slopes. So when the opportunity presented itself to demo a pair of skiboards last season at Stratton Mountain, Vermont, my wife and I shed our poles and took the plunge. It was amazingly easy. On the very first run down the mountain I was already skiing backwards and having the time of my life - form, carving, who cared??? These things were a blast!

“Anyone who has inline skated can be comfortable on skiboards after only a couple of runs”, says Rob Chesnut, who works at Ski Racquet in Olney, Md. “To some they may seem a little skitterish at first, but that goes away as you learn to lower your stance,” adds Mike Foster, the owner of the store. And unlike skis, which require a delicate shifting of weight between the skis to carve a turn, the weight shift between the boards comes naturally since they are so light. “It really is just like skating down the slopes,” my wife commented as we finished our first run. Since the boards have bindings that work with regular ski boots and you’re without your poles, working your way through the lift line required a bit of waddling. “This part makes me feel like a duck”, she continued.

Though skiboards have been around for several years, they’ve only recently caught on here on the East Coast. SnowSports Industries of America reports that the sale of ski boards has increased 2,364 percent in the last two seasons. Much of the increase is also attributed to snowboarders taking up the sport. “I was a diehard snowboarder”, says Josh Menke of Longmont, Colorado, “and had been riding for 13 years, when it wasn’t even cool. My first time on boards was interesting, getting used to facing forward rather than to the side. I spent most of the day on the slopes until my feet started cramping from boots that were too small. But even with my sore feet, I fell in love with skiboards that began researching manufacturing methods. I started my own company, Journey Skiboards, and I’m now building custom skiboards four months out of the year.”

“These things are ideal for kids used to skiing who want to join their snowboarding friends in the snowboard park,” says Chesnut.

By my third run at Stratton I was ready to tackle the bumps and jumps of the terrain park. On skis I was always worried about crossing my tips on landing whenever I took to the air - crashing and burning in a dramatic, unorganized heap. But it’s impossible to cross your tips on the short boards. Landing was easy. And the few times I did fall, I was able to pop right back up without all of the hassle of retrieving a ski or faltering to stand up on the slope as my skis tried to take off without me.

I then ventured out onto the moguls, no problem (by now I had totally lost my fear of crossing my tips and face planting after coming across the top of the bump), and deep ungroomed powder - problem. In the deep snow they just bogged down. They lacked the surface area to glide through it. But since most resorts groom the vast majority of their terrain, I had plenty of slopes to ride and glide, spin and fly!

The boards come in a variety of sizes by various manufacturers. They are also sometimes referred to as Snowblades. However, this is the brand name for boards made by Solomon. Skiboards range in price from $129 to $300 and come equipped with a simple non-releasable binding; though the more expensive models are now featuring a release mechanism. A quick connect strap secures the board to your boot in case the binding does release. Most resorts in the area offer them as rentals for a price comparable to ski rentals.

Since they were free demos, we returned the boards reluctantly after a couple of hours. Back on regular skis, I felt as though my feet were giant boats at first. Yet I noticed that I was carving with more ease. Using the boards had somehow improved my technique. “For intermediate and upper level skiers, skiboards are great for improving both balance and carving,” says Whitetail Ski Instructor Sue Slick. I now had a way to enhance my skiing technique, join the aerialists in the snowboard park and ride the slopes in all directions without a care. Deciding to buy a pair of skiboards was a much a no-brainer as learning how to use them.

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About Matthew Graham

Matthew Graham is a skier as well as a hang glider and paraglider pilot, SCUBA diver, cavern diver, equestrian, polo player, sailor, hiker, biker, rock climber, paddler, and skater. He's also yoga teacher and certified personal trainer and has dabbled in just about every other sport, even stunt car driving and bull riding! He has written for the Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, USA Weekend Magazine, Hooked on the Outdoors, Richmond Magazine, Chesapeake Life Magazine, Metro Sports, American Fitness, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Recreation News and numerous other outdoor and travel publications.

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Reader Comments

JimK
February 4, 2002
Thanks. A few weeks ago a kid in my neighborhood said he was going to Blue Knob the next day and he wanted to know if they rented skiboards? I said, you mean skiblades? He said no, skiboards. This went on for a couple of minutes, we never did quite understand each other. Now I know they're one in the same, but don't know if Blue Knob rents them.
dtqjr
February 4, 2002
Great article. Glad to see that they improved your skiing technique because now I have a good excuse to give them a try. Thanks.
Roy
February 12, 2002
You've hit one of my favorite subjects.

Jim, Blue Knob does rent boards. The ones they had last year were very wide and I did not like them much.

I decided to buy boards last year. I've never owned skis but had a hard time parting with the money for the skis, bindings, poles and boots. I bought the boots and got Snowblades for $200. I went out with a buddy of mine who was a former teacher and we worked on my technique. The things he taught me were much easier to learn on the blades and then transfer to skis. Also, don't assume you don't need poles. I skied moguls without poles and it was a workout. Then I borrowed my buddy's poles and I finally understand how the pros ski moguls.

Powder does not necessarily slow you down, it depends on technique and terrain. Most of the glades out west I skied on were deep powder and not really steep. The blades bogged down. Then I went to Copper Mountain and skied to the backside were they have snowcat skiing. Most of the terrain was wide untracked, calf deep powder. After a couple of times sticking, I learned to lean back and cruise down the mountain. These things aren't designed for deep powder but I think we can work on the technique.

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