Freestyle cross country skiing?
Kate Newick and Berkley Leach have been Nordic skiing since they could walk. Now, at 23 and 22, respectively, theyre ready to try the sport with a new twist terrain parks. Last Saturday at Tahoe Cross Country, Newick and Leach borrowed the ski areas new Nordic twin tip skis, made with turned up tips in the front and back to enable skiing both forward and backward. Although theres not a terrain park built yet, the girls said theyre excited to try the new skis out on jumps. Although they were intrigued by the skis, they agreed that the market for such a product is rather limited.The only generation who would try this ski would be the younger generation 30 and under, Newick said. Not according to 57-year-old Jack Johnston, who was watching the young women experiment with skiing backwards. These are cool, he said. Im taking these out tomorrow.The trend of freestyle skiing is making a debut in the Nordic market this year, with a new line of Fischer twin-tip Nordic skis, called the Jib Skate ski, made especially for terrain parks. The skis will officially be put on the market Dec. 1. Several local cross country areas bought into the craze, renting out the new skis for free trials and building small, but increasingly popular terrain parks. Truckee resident and recent Northstar employee Tor Brown invented the skis and sold the idea to Fischer several years ago.I was seeing the success of freestyle in the alpine and snowboarding world, Brown said. I have a long background in Nordic skiing and Iknow kids are always interested in building jumps. Brown is now Fischers Jib Skate program director and hes seeing the success of the skis he created all over the West.Its been highly successful, he said. Ive been showing the skis all over and the response has been really good.Several weeks ago, Tahoe Cross Country built several small jumps and the high school aged boys flocked to them, Tahoe Cross Country Director Kevin Murnane said. We cant say we had a terrain park this year, he said. Next year will tell.Next year, Murnane said hes considering building a quarter pipe, a series of small rolling jumps and a fun box a wooden box that you can slide over all in proximity to the trailhead to gain the best exposure.Tahoe Cross Country currently has eight pairs of the new Fischer twin-tip skis. Theyre not on the usual rental racks yet skiers have to ask for them and staff will go retrieve a pair from out back. At 160 cm, the skis are slightly shorter but the same width as typical cross country skis. The bindings are mounted more toward the center to promote balance and theyre made with stronger carbon fiber material to make for a stiffer ski. The only other difference is the design the skis, which are black with blue and red freestyle-inspired graphics, appear to have been designed with the young, male market in mind. Fischer skis has even put out a Nordic terrain park manual for cross country ski areas.Its all on a trial basis right now, Murnane said. Theyre pushing it out West, because thats where these trends develop.Although Fischers leading the charge right now, Murnane said other Nordic ski companies may adopt a freestyle Nordic ski depending on the success of the Fischer Jib Skate. Tahoe Donner, Bear Valley and Northstar-at-Tahoe all experimented with terrain parks in their Nordic areas this season.At Tahoe Donners Nordic area, ski patrol director Shannon Hoyt, with the help of a groomer, designed a terrain park with seven features a quarter pipe, a few kickers, rolling hills with drop off points and a spine-like mound. The park was open in January and after it was built, Hoyt said he counted 76 people in the park in one day. Soon after that, the University of Nevada Reno Nordic team showed up to train and hopped in the park. I was kind of skeptical initially and wondered how much it would be used and how often, he said. It was an experiment and it worked.Hoyt stressed that the terrain park is not like your typical Alpine park its for playing and learning, he says.Its a skills improvement area, he said. It gets kids to be light on their skis and to move around on various conditions.Although the ski area is closed for the season, Hoyt said theres a chance the terrain park will back next year with a larger size and some new features. Murnane said that theres a chance that some traditionally minded Nordic skiers may not be pleased to see the new direction the sports taking, but for Johnston, who joked that hes been Nordic skiing since the dinosaurs were here, hes ready to play. Any innovation is a good thing, Johnston said. If it brings more people out to enjoy skiing, then its all for the good.
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