"Wide and short skis promise easy fun"

"Wide and short skis promise easy fun"

Denver Post

BAYFIELD - If you haven't already seen them, you will soon.

Skiboards are growing in popularity the way snowboards did a couple of decades ago. Best described as skis that are half as long and twice as wide, skiboards allow just about anybody with an interest in gravity-based snow sports to enjoy them, said Doc Roberts, owner of Skiboards Superstore in Bayfield.

About eight years ago, Roberts tried a pair of skiboards and was immediately hooked. "I was a long-term skater and long-term skier, but the two never went together for me," Roberts said. "But when I got on skiboards I immediately felt comfortable. It took me three runs to decide I would never go back again."

Roberts said the twin boards offer the best of two worlds - skis and snowboards. You can ski them tackling any terrain, or head into a terrain park for a variety of tricks. Ease of learning is one of the highlights of skiboards, and they're easier on the body, Roberts said.

Carol Komie, director of marketing and operations for Skiboards Superstore, said they are so easy anybody can learn in a short time. "Skiboards are just so goshdarn easy anybody can do them and enjoy themselves," Komie said. "You don't need poles. They're totally fun."

Skiboards aren't new, but for the most part skiboards have been flying under the radar. Komie said the phenomenon started in the 1950s actually. Only in the past 10 years or so have major manufacturers gotten involved, putting out name-brand skiboards such as K2, Fischer, Salomon and Head.

After Roberts had his epiphanous skiboard experience, he persuaded his wife, Christie, to help him launch an Internet business out of their garage. Christie Roberts put together a small Web page, and the pair thought they might have a small side business on their hands.

One 3 a.m. phone call changed that. That phone call, from Sweden, should have warned the couple what was coming. Soon, Doc Roberts had quit his job and was putting in 15-hour days in the garage trying to meet demand.

Eight years later, the Roberts' Skiboards.com is the world's largest skiboard retailer, and the website offers a full range of outdoor winter gear. The company is growing at about 15 percent to 20 percent per year, and this year the company will surpass half a million dollars in sales.

The newest upgrade to the family business was the opening of a retail store in Bayfield in early December. "It's a perfect location for us," Roberts said. "Prior to that we were mostly Internet. Now we've got a full-on retail store. It's nice, it's serving the local community."

Marketing is word of mouth, but the best advertising comes on the mountain when people want to know what those "short skis" are.

Roberts said skiboarders may get funny looks from skiers, but a skiboarder can do pretty much everything a skier can do, only more easily. Besides, skiboards are really nothing like skis. "When skiers look at skiboards, they figure they can't be fast, they can't be very stable or very good in the powder," Roberts said. "They're like skis only in that there's two of them."

"You can ski on these, but you can really carve the mountain like snowboarders," Roberts said. "Where they really excel is in the moguls and the glades. They're very quick to turn. It's no longer work, it's fun. You can play in the moguls."

There have been people on skiboards ranging from a 3-year-old to former skiers in their 70s, including a former Olympic medal winner, Roberts said. "The majority of our market is families," Roberts said. "Moms and dads can go with their kids and pretty much go anywhere." Roberts said some people switch to skiboards because of age or bad knees. And cost is another reason.

Compared with skis, skiboards are inexpensive, starting at $99 with bindings and ranging up to about $400.

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