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Freeskiing: Is it an Action Sport?

derek olthuisIt’s 2009 and Freeskiing has been legit for probably at least the last 10 years, ever since the first pair of yellow Salomon 1080s showed up on JF Cusson, Mike Douglas, JP Auclair, and the rest of the New Canadian Air Force’s feet. Since that time, twintips have moved from one SKU in the line up to about 70% of all skis having some type of upturned tail. Athletes have gone from ex-mogul jocks to full on rockstars sponsored by Red Bull and Target. Skis are now almost as wide as a snowboard, have strong graphic stories and have reverse camber. But the question still remains: is skiing really an action sport?

When people think of skiing, most people conjure images of the Hermanator or Picabo Street, hurling themselves downhill in a skinsuit so tight that would make Spiderman blush. Or they think of those inane Warren Miller skits where the people keep falling off the chairlift when they try to get off. Like the Virgina Slims ad, we’ve come a long way baby.

You know skiing has gained the ultimate respect when snowboard companies started sponsoring skiers. For the longest time, snowboarders rebelled against their older sibling, still sore from the jeers, taunting, spitting and banning that occurred on hills. It’s the stuff that would get Jesse Jackson in arms if he lived in Colorado. Now skiers and snowboarders co-exist in the park, on most trails and in the lift line. Companies like Holden, Von Zipper, Electric, Sessions, Eesa and at one point even Burton (through Anon and Red) sponsor or sponsored skiers. After a few very successful years, Burton dumped their skiers, proclaiming that if you aren’t moving sideways, you aren’t going to be associated with Burton. Perhaps they just got leery of seeing so many Anon goggles on the heads of people with sharp pointy poles.

To make a ruling on Freeskiing as an action sport, one needs to ask: what makes a sport an Action Sport as by definition, most sports involve some sort of action. The sports that hold the lofty “Action Sports” title seem to have a few things in common:

1. Coverage in X-games, Dew games or some other billed as extreme, made-for-TV event sponsored an energy drink. – Check

2. The potential to cause serious harm to oneself or die by being suffocated by large quantities of water or break major bones on a hard flat surface by going too fast. – Check

3. A series of movies that are great eye candy, but really have no script to speak of. – Check

4. A group of athletes that were previously marginalized, but really now are just as mainstream as football or baseball jocks. – Check

5. Equipment that requires a serious amount of cash. – Check

6. Labeled as a sport, but in reality, proper fashion is almost as if not more important than actually being good at the sport. – Check

7. Claim of being super hardcore because back in the day, it was three scruffy dudes in the middle of nowhere, doing the sport for no money just “the love”. – Maybe if you consider the 1930s back in the day

So based on my totally arbitrary ramblings, freeskiing should be considered an action sport. But there’s still this little pang in my gut that says there’s too much of “The Man” in skiing. I can’t quite shake it, and it follows me around from the hill to the house. Perhaps it’s because most skiers and skiing still have such structured, rigid rules attached to them. And you’re just as likely to see your dad skiing as you bro. All I can say with certainty is that time will tell. And I know that I’ll be mixing it up in the winter on my snowboard and skis.

Posted by Hoon on Friday, May 1st, 2009 in Snow.


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9 Responses to “Freeskiing: Is it an Action Sport?”

  • Steve Says:

    Absolutely!! Speed, air, switch, off-axis, exposed lines. There aren’t many action sports that are that dangerous!

  • baby-son Says:

    lol. is this an ongoing debate? Visit your nearest mountain’s terrain park and assess for yourself. I’m pretty sure it’d wrap up this “dialogue.”

  • drexnefex Says:

    you musta got harshed on by some overly local shreds or something.

    sounds like you are arguing that freeskiing should be on the same level as snowboarding.

  • Cameron Says:

    Yes, it is.

    Individuality, style, risk, exposure, freedom… all the makings of an action sport.

    Unfortunately you are right though, most people still perceive skiing with racing, which sucks.

  • watsonbe Says:

    i dont think this is an argument, skiing is not what it used to be, the people who think of skiing the way you say some do in this article are racers who do where tight stuff and onlky care about going fast, skiers easlily go bigger, spin more, and can do more than snowboarrders. skiers have been doing (in freesking, not aerials) double flips for over 4 years now and snow boarders are just starting to, in the xgames big air, every skier did at least one double flip and some were switch. here is some additional evidence if u wanna try to argue
    http://www.veoh.com/browse/videos/category/sports/watch/v18268943S4qKqE3n

  • ski.the.selkirks Says:

    I’m sorry, but this is the single worst article that I have ever read on a website or blog. It’s not even the writing style, it’s that your facts are all wrong. Skiing is and always has been an “action sport.”

    You are 100% incorrect when you say that most people think of skiing as (in a nutshell) “a bunch of racers.” Even if skiing is thought of in that way, what in going 80+ MPH down a slope is not extreme? Seems more extreme than a lot of sports out there.

    You rip on Warren Miller and his films because they show people falling off chairlifts, even though chances are you are thinking of something else. Warren Miller IS extreme skiing. Recent films like Off The Grid, Children of Winter, and Playground have only reinforced that decades-old vision of skiing the steepest lines, with mind-blowing photography and creative narration and humor.

    Not only that, you rip on other ski movie production companies as only “great eye-candy,” even though these progressive companies are those that today define the sport. Think MSP, PBP, Level 1, 4bi9, and Nimbus Independent. These movies embody today’s skiing culture that’s hellbent on the biggest lines, the best powder, the biggest features and the coolest tricks. Movies like “Reasons” and “Hunting Yeti” build on Warren Miller’s success with their own distinctive style and take on today’s skiing.

    You center one of your points around the fact that “companies like Holden, Von Zipper, Electric, Sessions, Eesa” now sponsor skiers alongside snowboarders. What about the progressive ski companies, like Line, 4FRNT, Armada, Ninthward and Liberty? Line, for example, has been around much longer than a few of those companies that you mentioned. All of these companies that I mentioned have been sponsoring skiers for the life of their company, not to mention K2, which sponsors the best of the best like Pep Fujas and Andy Mahre.

    You claim that because skiers are featured in the X Games and the Dew Tour, we are considered to be an “action sport.” Since when did we come second?

    Your claim that we “have the claim of being super hardcore because back in the day, it was three scruffy dudes in the middle of nowhere, doing the sport for no money just “the love” – if you call the 1930s back in the day” is also blatantly incorrect. Skiing is still this way, for those who aren’t sponsored and those who are. Have you ever been in the backcountry? There are no lifts, no establishment, no lodges, no patrol. BC is skiing at its best. It’s just you and the mountain. That’s why Morrison, Benchetler, Mahre, and Fujas spend most of their time in the BC. And even today, these skiers admit that they don’t do it for the money. The do it because they love to ski, as do millions of others throughout the country and world.

    You claim that there’s too much of “the man” in skiing. Too many rules and the fact that “your dad skis.” As I stated above, you obviously have never been in the BC. Ditch your dad, go buy a beacon, probe and shovel and get out there. Then tell me that skiing is not extreme.

  • watsonbe Says:

    ^ damn right

  • ski.the.selkirks Says:

    ^You could also go into the whole “lifestyle” argument. I mean, I know of no other group of participants in a sport that are as addicted to their sport as skiers are to skiing. And it’s progressed so much in the past few years that it’s unfair to apply an overused stereotype to us.

  • Nascar rules Says:

    Can someone find ski.the.selkirk’s pacifier so he will stop crying like a baby, its not helping your argument buddy. Why do u want to be labeled anyway? At this rate everything from Nascar to parachuting will be labeled “action sports”

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