Skiboarding

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Skiboarder riding a rail.
The difference in size and shape of a typical snowblade/skiblade as compared to the larger symmetrical skiboards being produced today.

Skiboarding is a winter sport which combines elements of skating, snowboarding, and skiing. Skiboards are used and worn in conjunction with standard ski boots that connect to the skiboards with use of a binding. Skiboards can be grouped into two general categories. Regular skiboards are generally 75-110 cm long, symmetrical, twin tipped. Modern skiboards share these characteristics but are also wider, and have more in common with snowboards, encouraging use of the edge during a session. Skiboarding is often incorrectly referred to as snowblading or skiblading, however, "Snowblades" are a trademark of Salomon. Further adding to the confusion, Salomon has ceased manufacturing skiboards, the product for which they coined the common name snowblades.

History[edit]

Early Days of Skiboarding[edit]

Firn Gliders (short 50 to 65cm skis) have been used by alpine mountaineers since the 1940s to transverse summer glaciers more easily. This may be the earliest equivalent to today’s skiboards. The first prototype of the modern skiboard was the Atomic Glider (later renamed the Figl), a 63.5 cm bindingless ski designed in 1982 to fit into a hiker's backpack and sold primarily in Colorado. Then, around 1990, Austrian company Kneissel introduced the BigFoot, a 65 cm ski with a binding system. The BigFoot was one of the first mass-produced skiboards, which featured a foam core, p-tex base and trademark 'toes' on the tip.

The Growth[edit]

In 1992, Kent Keiswieller invented something he called the MicroSki, which was another take on skiboards. Also that year, Michael Canon became the west coast distributor for Kneissel's BigFoot. Just one year later, in 1993, Canon, Tayt Tindall and Victor Holtorf founded Klimax Skiboards.

The mid 90s saw a large growth in skiboarding manufacturers. German Mat Merckel begin creating his vision of 'snow skates' in early 90s in his grandfather's garage. By the middle of the decade, he had founded the Powder Company which produced much wider skiboards than those being created at that time. In the US, Jarred and Kary Parrelmutter founded GrooveUSA Skiboards after spending a short time producing skiboards for Klimax. These individuals would shape the skiboarding industry and drive the popularity during the next few years. On the east coast, Jason Levinthal was designing his own type of Skiboards for his soon to be company, LINE, which has evolved into one of the most prominent twin-tip ski manufacturers. Michael Canon left Klimax and created another all skiboarding company, Canon Skiboards.

In 1997, German ski company Salomon (Adidas-Salomon) released their version of skiboards, called Snowblades, in response to skiboarding's growing popularity. Soon, many larger ski companies such began to produce skiboards.

The Boom[edit]

Skiboarding continued to grow and prosper as all of the companies were putting out new skiboards and sponsoring riders. The first pro model was introduced around this time with Line Skis creating the Mike Nick Pro Model (98-99)

From 1998 to 2000, skiboarding was part of the winter X Games on ESPN. This helped to promote the sport and bring it to its peak. In 1999, Rick Stark started the World Skiboarding Federation (WSF) as a sanctioning body for skiboarding and the United Skiboard Series (USS) as a competition series for skiboarders. The goal of WSF, according to its presidents, Mark Billik and Rick Stark, is to be an organization that is "run by the industry, and its people, with the sole purpose to help our industry grow in a healthy and successful fashion." The WSF’s rules stated that all skiboards must be under 100 cm.

During the 1999-2000 seasons, approximately 25 companies were manufacturing some form of skiboard, including Dynastar, Imperial, Odyssey and Kosmos. Larger ski manufacturers also entered the market around this same time. Companies such as Atomic, Alpina, Elan, Blizzard, Fischer and Head all contributed many new designs. Some of these manufacturers began producing skiboards that could be mounted with traditional ski-type release bindings as well such as Atomic and Head.

2000 was the final year of competition for skiboarding in the X games and for the second time the event was slopestyle. Neal Lyons brought home the gold, while Mike Nick won the silver and Nicky Adams won the bronze. Skiboarding was replaced with skiing in the X Games, a hard hit to the USS and the skiboarding industry. Professional skiboarders no longer had a forum to compete, and several professional skiboarders including Mike Nick, Iannick B., and Nicky Adams switched to freestyle skiing. The lack of a professional circuit caused skiboarding to drop in popularity around 2001.

The Fall[edit]

The United Skiboard Series and World Skiboard Federation were dissolved and skiboarding was dropping in popularity with riders, manufacturers and retailers. No longer were kids looking for their favorite pro model skiboard, they were now looking for twin tips. But that didn't stop the industry from trying to revive itself.

With skiboarding’s governing body and professional series gone, a man by the name of Dean Kistler along with the Hashi Group decided to launch the International Skiboarding Federation (ISF) to keep the sport of skiboarding in line. They defined skiboarding as any two skis under 100 cm long. The organizations objective was to build a self-supporting membership-type organization, utilizing key people, to develop useful programs and events that benefit the athletes and the snow sports industries. The organization served its purpose well in the first few years, but eventually Kistler stopped doing anything for the ISF and it wasted away.

Almost all of the core skiboarding companies that started up in the mid to late 90s were now gone. Line, the largest of these companies, continued to produce skiboards for a few years but turned its focus to twin tips after sales fell off. In recent years they produced low quality skiblades, which in 2007 were recalled and they haven't produced any since.

The Revival[edit]

New core companies began to revive the sport by producing more innovative skiboards. In 2002, longtime skiboard retailer that began his company in 1996, Doc Roberts, entered the market with his own skiboard manufacturing company, Summit Skiboards. Today Summit produces eight models of skiboards: the 99cm Nomad, the 99cm Carbon Pro, the Custom 110cm, the 110cm Carbon Pro, the Freedom 99cm, the Jade 87cm, the Headwall 95cm and the 125cm Marauder. These skiboards could be mounted with traditional ski release bindings as well as snowboard bindings. The market for skiboards began to expand with the increasing interest in skiers, snowboarders, families, vacationers and those who preferred not to participate in the long learning curve typically associated with skis or snowboards. This allowed all ages to begin to embrace the sport.

They were followed, in 2003, by Jeff Singer's Spruce Mountain. Spruce Mountain began producing skiboards but soon became but just as well known for their binding system called 'The Riser'. The Riser is a platform with the skiboarding standard 4x4 binding system that allowed riders to attach releasable bindings to their skiboards without drilling into the boards themselves. They also shifted their board focus from traditional skiboards to producing what are now known as longboard skiboards. Current production includes a 120cm board along with the 130cm Sherpa.

Around the same time as Spruce Mountain, a company called Snowjam started making skiboards. Today, they produce 3 models that are using the standard 4x4 binding insert pattern, the 75cm and 90cm and 99cm. Another one of Snowjam's long lasting products has been their non-release binding system called Extreme II. Using all metal and the standard 4x4 system, the Extreme II has lasted through the years as a quality affordable binding option. Most skiboards that are produced in Japan today come standard with Extreme II bindings. Snowjam also now makes snowboards.

Mix was founded in 2004 by Seth Gartin. Seth came into the market with 2 professional riders, Ben Wannamaker and Adam Lynam. Mix's entry into the market was short lived, however. Plagued by manufacturing delays and boards that de-laminated and fell apart, they couldn't honor warranties and soon folded. They had plans to reemerge as Epic Skiboards, but that never happened.

2005 saw two new skiboard companies release their first boards. In Norway, Ola Loken had started up Loken Skiboards. In their first season, they produced three models, 97.5cm Apetorch, 99.5cm El Bajong and the 99.5cm Cruise Tool 8. Loken sponsored several riders in its short life, but stopped making new skiboards after the 2006 season. In the US, Skiboardsonline.com founder Greco started up RVL8 Skiboards and released its first board, the 105cm Revolt. Still thriving today, RVL8 Skiboards now makes the widest range of boards in the industry. The shortest being the 75cm Bantam followed by the 90cm Tansho and the 98cm BWP. There are a few boards over 100cm including; 101cm KTP, 103cm Rumspringa, 105cm Revolt, 110cm DLP and 110cm Condor.

Latvia became a player in the skiboarding production market in 2007 with the birth of the 94cm Allz. Started by European skiboarding e-retailer Martins Miculis, Allz has produced an updated version of the Allz 94 in 2008. Also in 2007, long-time Summit skiboard producer, Lacroix, went out on its own to produce its own line of skiboards. Since then, the owner, Ludovic Lacrois has sold off the company and today's version of Lacroix no longer makes skiboards.

2007 marked a landmark in the advancement of skiboarding, as riders from around the world came together in Predeal, Romania for the first ever Skiboard World Cup. Three freestyle events were held (Rail Jam, Big Air and Slopestyle) as well as three racing events (Skiboard Cross, Fakie Downhill and Chinese Downhill). The World Skiboard Association was the main organizer of the event.

2008 was another breakthrough year for skiboarding. The World Skiboard Association organized the first European Skiboard Cup in Busteni, Romania and the second World Cup in Dubai, U.A.E. The Skiboard World Cup in Dubai in 2008 was a historic moment for all winter sports as it was the first ever international snow sport event held in the desert. 15 countries participated in the 2008 competitions. Japan, Romania, Russia and USA won the World Cup medals.

Also in 2008 under the leadership of Sergey Agapov, (Director of Development skiboarding in Russia from WSA) skiboarding first time in history was presented at the biggest Russian exhibition of 15th Ski & Board salon.

2009 European Skiboard Cup held in Latvia. The competition was held in the disciplines: Slope Style, Big-Air, Parallel slalom, Skiboard Cross, Fakie Downhill and the Chinese Downhill.

In the same year in the U.S. at Ragged Mountain Resort held competitions US SKIBOARD OPEN

References[edit]