The Inertia Mountain Contributing Editor

We all remember aggressive inline skating. Rollerblades, as they were commonly referred to, came storming onto the scene in the late 1980s when two brothers from Minnesota developed one of the first inline skates in their parents’ basement. Developed specifically to train for hockey in the offseason, inline skating became an overnight sensation and everyone from NHL players to exercise-conscious suburban moms could be seen gliding around paved paths and subdivision streets.

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By the time the 1990s swung around most children in North America had some form of inline skates as everyone from Fisher-Price to Salomon were making them. With this came aggressive inline skating, a weird and often devalued form of the sport that was aimed at the same terrain favored by skateboarders and BMX riders, however, was instantly and continuously hated on by skateboarders and BMX riders alike for the duration of this strange subculture’s short existence.

One of the most undesirable parts of aggressive inline skating was when inliners would hit urban handrails that skateboarders had popularized. While it was much easier to approach and jump on a handrail with a pair of rollerblades strapped to your feet, it also looked bizarre as inliners would almost buckle their knees inwards and widen their feet into a gross looking duck stance that assured anything resembling style was thrown out of the proverbial window.

By the mid-2000ss aggressive inline skating was basically dead. Occasionally a rollerblader would show up at the skatepark and receive looks of pity from the local skateboarders (being mean to them wasn’t fun anymore) as one had to assume holding onto aggressive inlining was the result of some sort of early childhood trauma. At least they had the razor scooter kids to talk to.

In the late 1990s, with skiing trying to crawl out of a black hole of despair cast by its rival sport, snowboarding, ski companies did the unimaginable: they looked to snowboarding, the sport they hated with a venomous passion as their guiding light for future relevance. And it worked. The twin-tip freestyle ski slowly started to grab back some of the youth market share from the rapidly growing snowboard industry. For the first time in skiing’s long history “freestyle” meant riding parks and features like snowboarders instead of banging one’s knees into oblivion on bump runs.

Snowboarding, unlike skiing, was born out of the 1980s surf and skateboard scene. Many of the professional snowboarders who would become well known for their freestyle ability were also avid and talented skateboarders, so it made sense when the natural progression of rail riding transitioned from snowboard parks into the streets. And while even street or urban snowboarders had a hard time impressing die-hard skateboarders, at least the act of hitting urban features on a snowboard replicated the style of skateboarding.

Following snowboarding’s lead, as the ski industry was growing more and more accustomed to, it wasn’t long before twin-tipped skiers in overly baggy smurf outfits started taking their two sticks into the streets. From its inception, it was a strange and awkward concept, as skiing might be the single least urban thing you can do. When skiing entered into the streets it wasn’t following some sort of natural cultural progression like snowboarding, as the history of skiing is not rooted in the art of jibbing but in the history of moguls and figure eights.

Just walking up and down stairs in ski boots looks ridiculous so it is no wonder that jumping onto and riding down a handrail next to the stairs looks awkwardly kooky. When “urban” skiers hit handrails it mimics the style of aggressive inline skaters, except it’s exaggerated by the length of the skis. Skis, when on the handrail, almost never stay straight. They paddle up and down the entire time in what snowboarders refer to as tail and nose sag, and even if the skier does manage to keep his or her skies straight the body posture mimics rollerblading to such an extreme extent that it immediately harkens back to the days of a thankfully bygone era.

Some may dismiss this notion as an overall disdain for skiers, but I love skiers. Watching skiers rip big mountain lines or spin over a large backcountry gap is visually awe-inspiring. Many of my favorite video segments are from skiers. I’d actually rather watch a skier bag an insane big mountain line than just about any winter sports athlete, snowboarder or skier. But when it comes to skiers hitting handrails there is nothing in either sport that looks less appealing.

Ultimately new-school skiers still want to be snowboarders, and for good reason as snowboarders are still much cooler than skiers. But skiers should also recognize that there should be some boundaries. Just like no snowboarder should ever ride moguls, no skiers should ever hit handrails and if they do they should be immediately mocked and have to turn in their aggressively baggy ski trousers.

For now, it’s a race to the bottom between skiers and razor scooters for who can look kookiest in the streets, so do yourself a favor, skiing, and honor the legacy of the late great Dexter Rutecki by keeping skiing in the mountains and hills where it belongs.



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