It's a board! It's a ski! It's a snowblade!!

By Erika Gonzalez, Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

A new snow sport is sliding its way into the hearts of skiers, snowboarders and even in-line skaters. It's called skiboarding or snowblading (old term) and it combines the best aspects of all three activities.  Skiboards (or older term of snowblades) are shorter, wider and more curved than traditional skis, allowing users to turn as they would on skis, ski backwards as they can on in-line skates and perform the same acrobatic stunts that snowboarders do. They can be used with or without poles and work with snowboard, ski or mountaineering boots. They're so fun, and they really allow people to use the whole mountain,'' said Dan O'Connell, director of the children's center at Winter Park and a professional skiboard racer.

O'Connell said skiboarding is also extremely easy to learn. A skier or snowboarder can typically catch on after day and can advance to other levels quickly. Several ski resorts, including Winter Park, are also using the snowblades to help teach skiing. "It reinforces certain movements and it lets them go out the snow and have fun in a non-intimidating way."

Although skiboards have been around for nearly five years, sales have gone through the roof this season because large manufacturers are starting to produce the new line of skis. Salomon, easily the ski industry's largest manufacturer, has found plenty of buyers for its snowblades, which are 90 centimeters long and not quite as wide as traditional skiboards.

"We underestimated the demand," said John Andreliunas, vice president of marekting for Salomon North America. "It's been a surprise that people have caught on so quickly.''

Boulder Ski Deals, Colorado Ski & Golf and local Christy Sports stores sold out of Salomon snowblades, which sell for $219 to $249, during Christmas. The snowblades have also been popular at area rental shops. "We're going to produce 100 percent more next season," Andreliunas said.

Salomon also plans to offer three different models next year and is producing a boot specifically designed for snowblades. Canon Skiboards, based in the San Francisco, already offers four different types of skiboards from beginner to professional level. The company's owner, Michael Canon, said he thinks skiboarding could rise above snowboarding in popularity. "It will be bigger than snowboarding because it has a larger target market," Canon said.

Canon said skiboarding could bring new people to the sport such as in-line skaters who don't participate in snow sports. It also appeals to older people who want to learn a snow sport easily and don't want much expense.

But some say skiboarding will never replace more mainstream sports such as skiing or snowboarding. "I think it will be a secondary thing to your main sport,'' said Matt Fusco, retail manager at the Winter Park Ski Shop.