‘Not just a dorky sport anymore’
The New York Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” The freeskier Tanner Hall comes from Kalispell, Mont., population 20,000. He is towheaded and resembles a young Ron Howard. So it is a testament to his flair for reinvention that he answers the telephone, without irony: ” Yo, what up? This is T.”
But then Hall, 24, and his fellow freeskiers ” who competed in superpipe on opening day at the Winter X Games on Thursday ” are adept at radical transformations. Using twin-tip skis, they have taken a sport that was headed downhill and literally turned it upside down with back flips and other aerial maneuvers.
Along with an attitude and an aesthetic that hew closer to pop culture, they have helped reinvigorate skiing, allowing it to reclaim its place of primacy on the slopes from snowboarding.
“A lot of stuff that we’re doing now is opening the eyes of the general public, especially the youth, that skiing is not just a dorky sport anymore,” said Peter Olenick, who won bronze in superpipe at the 2007 X Games. “We can do all the stuff snowboarders do, only better.”
After years of steady growth, snowboarding participation surpassed alpine skiing in 2004, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.
In 2004, there were 6.5 million snowboarders and 5.9 million skiers. But the next year, the trend reversed course. And in 2006 ” the most recent year for which figures are available ” there were nearly 6.4 million skiers and 5.2 million snowboarders.
Although overall sales for alpine skis have been down in recent years, sales of twin-tip skis are soaring. From August to November 2007, twin-tip ski sales were up 50 percent over the same period last year, said Alicia Allen, a spokeswoman for the trade group SnowSports Industries America.
Aspen Highlands and Snowmass picked up 9 inches of new snow over the past 24 hours, according to the Aspen Skiing Co.’s Monday morning report. Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk collected 6 inches.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche watch for the Aspen zone through Monday, Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. and upped the avalanche danger to high on all aspects and at all elevations in response to the storm that hit the mountains of Colorado on Sunday night. Go to http://avalanche.state.co.us/ for more information.
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There is a lot of pent up energy among hikers and bikers to get into the high country, but snow fields, avalanche debris and high stream crossings are presenting challenges later than usual. Forest rangers with the Aspen-Sopris District provide trail condition reports that are updated each week so hikers and backpackers aren’t caught unaware.