The changing face of skiing

by Alex Handy

It’s a Thursday morning in Grenoble, 1968. The atmosphere is tense as Nancy Greene shapes up for her final run down the Chamrousse slopes. Firmly clamped into her super-straight Rossignol skis, Nancy charges to Olympic gold by an enormous margin of 2.64 seconds.

Skiing has morphed into a very different animal between the 1960s and today, with transformation in almost every area of the sport from fashion, to equipment, to types of competition.

In place of limb hugging all-in-one’s skiers today are more often found in brightly coloured baggy ensembles complete with the latest high tech design features. Murray Merkley toques have been replaced by helmets, and skis now come in all shapes and sizes from the diminutive snowblades to fat powder skis.

Where and how people go skiing has also been revolutionized, and perhaps the biggest development is the rise of terrain parks. Boxes, rails, halfpipes and jumps bigger than your house give skiers a lot more to do than just make turns. This change up has brought new skiers and riders to the industry, as well as new gear companies, sponsors and viewers. It’s pretty safe to say the freestyle industry is now almost as lucrative for energy drink companies as for traditional ski manufacturers.

These changes are as obvious in Sun Peaks as anywhere else. My own background is in ski instructing and I’ve been lucky enough to be one of this year’s coaches on the first ever freestyle program for local kids. The interest in this program has been huge with over 40 kids signing up for the 10 week program. This comes off the back of recent local success with Emma Whitman competing on the Dew Tour and Kieran Nikula currently winning Newschoolers.com “Best Skier on the Internet” competition. These athletes should be celebrated and their expertise should be made available to the other local kids who look up to them.

Now of course it’s important to recognize that freestyle skiing introduces new hazards to what’s already a dangerous sport. Yet it’s for this very reason that embracing freeskiing and establishing a freestyle club supported by trained coaches and locals is so important. Ultimately kids are going to try this stuff whether it’s regulated or not. Better to educate them on the dangers and teach them core skills rather than let the trial and error approach prevail.

It’s pretty clear that skiing is more diverse than ever before and can be enjoyable to people in many different ways. The result is more rounded skiers who, on powder days, might be off hiking Gil’s but when the sun is out and the snow is marginal, can be found lapping the park.

That’s a good thing for skiing and for Sun Peaks.

Many more people will be attracted to the sport from a whole host of backgrounds. No longer do you need to be living on a ski hill to enjoy skiing. Take a look at J.P. Auclair’s street segment from the film All I Can and you’ll understand.

Hopefully Sun Peaks will continue to get behind these new areas of skiing rather than hark back to the days when the slopes were filled with skiers wearing neon bright onesies whilst making “nice” turns.

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