It's still hard to believe for any former kid who's best clandestine kicker was ever destroyed by some lecturing killjoy in a red parka with a yellow cross. Today, not only do ski areas not wreck your jumps, they build them for you-bigger than anything you ever dared, right there under the chairlift alongside halfpipes, quarterpipes, rails and every other form of mischief.
Clearly, there's been a change of thinking upstairs in the risk-assessment office. Props go to the snowboarders for that. But where terrain parks were once the exclusive province of one-plankers (some pipes even had "No Skiers Allowed" signs at the top), now they're open to anyone with an inclination. At first, snowboarders had the advantage: being able to land or take off fakie. But not anymore, thanks to twin-tipped skis. Not only are skiers going just as huge in the pipe, there are signs that twin-tipped new-schoolers arereclaiming territory lost in the war for preadolescentloyalty-in some cases out-cooling even the ultra-cool counterculture of snowboarding.
It's a far cry from a few years ago, when skiing seemed to have lost its groove, says Charlie Adams, vice president of marketing for Skis Dynastar and the father of a rippin' pre-teen jibber. He recalls a ski industry forum in Aspen, Colo.: "This kid stands up and tells us all that at his school, skiers aren't cool anymore. It's the snowboarders who are cool, and skiers are basically considered nerds. It hit me hard."
Armed with their twin-tips, a new generation of skiers has reversed that trend. Posters of young men like Tanner Hall, J.P. Auclair, J.F. Cusson, Jon Olsson, Eric Pollard, MikeDouglas and the "Three Phils" are reclaiming the walls of teenagers' bedrooms. "It's not something that's caught fire yet with the mainstream marketers or Hollywood," says Adams, whose company also distributes snowboards. "But those of us who are close enough to it can definitely smell the smoke. I live in Stowe (home of Jake Burton), which is a hardcore ski town, but lately it's become a hardcore snowboard town, too. But skiing is cool again with my kid's age group. He feels no embarrassment or lack of cool for being a skier."
Part of that has to do with having hip role models. And where for a time it looked like the snowboarders had cool cornered, the new-schoolers have battled back with a counter-counterculture brio of their own. The two camps profess to get along in the name of snowsliding, but there's still an element of competition-constant comparison of who's got the freshest, biggest moves. So who does?
"It's pretty hard to tell," says Salomon's Ted Wardlaw, who manages his company's winter-sports athletes. He sees monumental feats of athleticism on both sides. "Both are going just stupid-high right now-like 12, 15 feet above the pipe. But I think skiers will ultimately go higher, just based on the fact that they've got two planks to work from."
That touches on an issue that worries Evan Dybvig, a World Cup freestyler who is rehabbing competitioninjuries while coaching in the freestyle program at Killington, Vt. If you've ever thought that some of those terrain park kickers-and the tricks kids use them for-look alittle dangerous, you're right. Impressionable youngsters anxious to bust out some new moves on their new pair of twinnies might not appreciate the preparation that goes into the stunts they see in the ski films. "They see some guy go huge in a movie and don't necessarily realize that he's landing in four feet of powder," says Dybvig. All they've got is this gnarly tabletop with a hard, icy landing, but they want to try a misty flip, and they're just gonna go for it."
It's enough to make a parent nervous, and Adamsadmits it can be a little nerve-wracking when his 10-year-old, Duncan, goes in switch. "He's throwing 70-foot 540s-sure, it's scary." But Adams knows this: Duncan has worked methodically and diligently with the experienced coaches at Mt. Mansfield Ski Club, a venerable race program that, like many of its kind, now offers freestyle coaching, too. "You wouldn't throw a kid into a super G without proper training, and you need to have the same approach to this stuff," Adams says.
Everyone seems to agree that the best twin-tip pilots have one thing in common: They're also some of the best skiers on the mountain, with fundamental skills and a lot of time invested in the sport. Wardlaw recalls a conversation he had sitting around at Squaw Valley, Calif., with a who's-who of new-schoolers. "We started talking about Bode, and every one of them agreed: Those guys racing on the World Cup are still the best technical skiers on the planet."
Twin-tips may be changing the face of skiing, but the best skiers have worked hard at what they do and can handle anything the mountain throws at them. That much won't change.
Choosing a Twin-tip
Image is everything in the terrain park, so graphics play a major role. There's nothing wrong with that, but there are technical considerations, too-mostly concerning width. Narrower boards (70-80 mm) are the tools of choice for hardpack terrain parks, especially in the East. Fatter ones (85 and up) are best for going huge in the backcountry.
And a word about rail-sliding: It will wreck edges (and more). So either dedicate a pair for rails or forget about doing any other kind of skiing on the pair you use.