The legend of Lee Dube: Monoskier | SierraSun.com

The legend of Lee Dube: Monoskier

Alex Close
action staff writer

photo by Court Leve/actionLee Dube at Squaw Valley

Between the time he walked through the turnstile to board the tram at Squaw Valley and the time the cable car jostled into its dock at High Camp, Lee Dube was asked three times by three different people what that crazy ski he was holding was all about.

“I need to get a T-shirt,” Dube said, “with all the answers printed on it.”

Dube, who only stands about five feet seven inches tall, was holding a 200 cm monoski, designed for floating on and shredding up deep powder.

With his head almost a foot and a half below the tip of his blue and white Powder Shark, he smiled as a man asked him if those monoskis had been around long.

“Only about 35 years,” Dube replied, to the man’s surprise.

Dube, a 47-year-old Truckee resident, has been riding them for 22 of those years.

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It was the Fourth of July, 1984 and Dube was skiing slush bumps at Mammoth Mountain. According to Dube, a guy was selling these crazy things out of the back of his pickup.

After trying one out, Dube has really never gone back to two planks. For the first couple of years he would take two skis out in icy or hard conditions, but now he’s a monoskier, through and through.

Dube says he doesn’t understand why monoskis haven’t caught on. According to him, they are much easier to ski than traditional skis.

“You don’t have to use all your energy to keep your skis together,” Dube said. He says this means skiers can put that energy into making more turns and tighter turns as well as taking more extreme lines.

However, according to Dube, the monoski really earns its keep when it snows.

“Where they really make a difference is in deep powder,” Dube said.

While he does do research and development for SnowShark, and says he has ridden just about every board ever made, he primarily rides three different SnowShark boards: his 200 cm Powder Shark, a shorter twin tip for playing and park riding, and a 188 cm all mountain board.

He said his Powder Shark is by far the best weapon out there for floating the fluff.

It’s just as wide and much longer than any snowboard on the market or any contemporary skis.

While Lee Dube has been riding monoboards for nearly three decades, he doesn’t just ride them, he rips them.

During the mid 1990s, the infancy of extreme skiing competition, Dube was right in there with the rest of the gnarly-line-ripping, big-cliff-hucking stompers that gave birth to what we now know as freeskiing.

The only difference, Dube was on a monoski.

He only competed for two years, ’95 and ’96, and never made the podium, but he came close.

During a competition at Squaw Valley, Dube hucked the biggest air of the competition during the finals round.

As he describes it, the weather had been nasty for a couple of days, blowing and snowing and filling things in. The day of the finals it was bluebird, it looked like they would clear Granite Peak.

Dube said he had wanted to scope the big cliff, but there was no time, snow safety cleared the lines and then Dube was selected to go first.

He went for it.

Airing off the 90-foot Granite Peak drop without scoping it, his speed was slightly off and he crashed to the ground, his body compressing, his knees bloodying his nose and packing his goggles with snow.

In extreme, or freeskiing, competition, athletes are scored on difficulty of line and continuity and flow. So if you take a big line and don’t maintain continuity and flow, you lose points.

With this in mind Dube lifted his goggles to his forehead and skied the rest of the slope bleeding so as to not lose points for stalling.

It wasn’t quite enough to make the podium, but it was enough for respect.

In Robb Gaffney’s book “Squallywood,” Dube makes an appearance in Shane McConkey’s bonus chapter on the game of G.N.A.R., or “Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness.”

Dube said the game would assign points for skiing certain especially extreme lines, as well as other things. Dube fit in because you could get points for racing him down certain hills.

“I said fine, if they race me I get to pick the line,” Dube said.

Chasing Dube down through the sun-baked crud of Broken Arrow in the twilight of the day, skis chattering over the crust, teeth clicking together and legs aching at the strain of keeping boots close together while Dube carves – apparently without effort – between rocks and pops off of every available ridge, it is fairly obvious why beating him down Corkscrew or through Granite Chief would be worth ample G.N.A.R. points.

The only way to earn more, do it on a monoski.

While it may look difficult, Dube said it’s remarkably easy and that for the life of him he cannot figure out why it hasn’t caught on.

“I’ll go to my grave still wondering why [monoskiing] never caught on,” Dube said.

It is a mystery. Anyone who catches a glimpse of Dube hucking off a cliff or popping off the tram building roof into Silverado would most likely want to give it a try.

Then again, the Mono Maniac makes it look easy.