Happenin Hybrid - Skiboards

"Happenin' hybrid" by Stephen Huettig, Tribune

Skiboarding, a strain of various winter sports, is catching air and catching on. The latest craze to hit the ski slopes has a lot to do with in-line skating, and snowboarding, and skiing, of course. But this is all at once. Huh?

"Skiboards are a hybrid of sorts - short skis that ride like in-line skates and can do snowboard-type acrobatics. Their popularity took off last year when MTV added them to its X-Games, an extreme sport event held at Crested Butte, CO. Skiboards look like miniature skis. They range form 2 to 3 feet long and use special non-release bindings that work with normal ski boots. They're ridden like in-line skates and ski poles are actually a hindrance. Follet's Mountain Sports in Lewiston and Moscow started demonstrating skiboards last winter. "This is definitely new and exciting," says Steve Deitz, manager of Follett's at Loewiston. Even though they sound risky, Diets says they aren't any more dangerous than regular skis. "Fun factor vs. injury factor", Dietz says. "It's worth it. They're a blast."

Nathan Allen, 18, of Lewiston, started Skiboarding last year after seeing them on the X-Games. "They're just awesome," he says the Lewiston High school senior."I was sold after the first time I tried them." Allen likes them because he can go fast and do snowboard-style tricks. He says it's easy to "catch a lot of air. Allen doesn't see many other skiboarders around here, but the numbers are starting to pick up at McCall.

He says he hasn't met the scorn of snowboarders got from skiers when snowboarding was new. And snowboarders look at us a little better than they do skiers." Nick Scott at Brundage Mountain in McCall says he rents out form 5 to13 pair of skiboards per day, mostly to people older than 20 and even some snowboarders."And it's great for a boarder to get on a ski." Grangeville's Snowhaven has two pairs that get rented every weekend. Dietyz says Skiboards appeal to just about everybody. He has put a variety of people on them - everyone from a 5 year old beginner to a 40 year old looking for something new.

Skiboards are popular 'all over the planet', with the United States trailing Japan in sales, according to Doc Roberts of Skiboards.com., an info/retail web site based near Boulder, CO. Salomon, the giant ski manufacturer launched its snowblade with a $22 million ad campaign, and their popularity moved up a notch. Roberts says 14 to 22 year olds make up a good part of the market. But he sees a bigger market emerging with the average skiers who go only a handful of times each season.

One reason is because skiboards are simple - they don't have the learning curve of skis, Roberts Says. Skiboards are maneuverable and can be learned in a couple trips down the slopes, without expensive lessons. "The average skiers can jump right on them and have a blast,"says Deitz In-line skating skills transfer easily, he say, because skiboarding uses the same motion. Deitz says they make a good training tool for skiers, too. The length means the skiboarders has to be centered over them. Leaning forward or backward too far will dump the skiboarder in the white stuff.

Roberts, a sports psychologist, gives another reason for the success of skiboards. "It's giving people an experience of freedom. People can get on the slopes and do whatever they feel like doing." Skiboards also can be used on sledding hills and snowmobile trails, he says. "You don't have to go to a ski hill because you don't need a huge, steep hill."

For further information, please go to either www.skiboards.com or www.summitskiboards.com