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Dropping the Gloves

People
posted: 11/01/2006

Eric Pollard, 23, was the first person to ski an entire backcountry line switch for the camera. He skis for Line, Helly Hansen, Anon, Dakine, Sublux, Timberline, and Mt. Hood Meadows. Proving he doesn't do everything backward, he recently married his longtime sweetheart, Erin.

Eric Says: BACKWARD IS FORWARD.

Skiing backward (also called switch or fakie) has given me much more freedom on the hill. Before twin tips, I'd watch my friends riding forward and switch on their snowboards and feel restricted and "directional on my skis. I got my first pair of twin tips a decade ago and not a day has gone by when I didn't ski backward. For me and many of my friends, skiing backward isn't a trick anymore; it's simply skiing.

These days I see a lot of different skiers trying it: racers, ski instructors, telemarkers, grandpas, kids. The option to ski backward is attracting more people to our sport, which is growing because of twin tips.

Skiing backward is fun, and it really works. You can carve, jump, and straightline just like you can while skiing forward. Over the last decade, skiers have proven that every move that can be done in the park or on backcountry kickers can also be done fakie. Four years ago, Candide Thovex threw a 120-foot cork 7, taking off forward, spinning two full rotations, and landing facing forward. Last season Tanner Hall skied into that same jump backward—at 53 mph—spun two and a half rotations, and stomped the landing.

Since all the newest tricks can now be done switch, fakie skiing will only continue to grow into mostly untested realms like big-mountain and halfpipe skiing. Skiing backward isn't the new ski ballet. We don't have a clue how far skiers will go with switch skiing. But we do know this: Kids are the future of skiing, and they love to ski backward.

Continue reading to see what Dan Treadway has to say.[pagebreak]

Whistler, BC's Dan Treadway skis for Rossignol, Oakley, Leki, Dakine, Giro, and Valley Chainsaw. When he's not skiing, he can be found in rural Ontario, killing big animals for fun.

Dan says: BACKWARD IS BACKWARD. PERIOD.

Eric, I'm all for the progression of skiing, or whatever it is you think you're doing. But my sympathy stops with skiing switch in powder. I'm sure it's harder, but then again, so is telemarking, and we know how fun that is.

Forward is where it's at, always was, always will be, for one simple reason: Nothing comes close to the sensation of powder hitting your face as you charge down a line as skiers have done for generations.

Too bad the next generation is so focused on skiing backward that they didn't bother learning how to ski forward first. You see it in all the movies: Talented park kids sent to Alaska to bring tricks to the mountains. But most of these guys couldn't buy a turn, let alone plant a pole.

On a film trip to Valdez last year, we had a guy who had never skied big mountains before and all he wanted to do was find a perfect line…to ski switch. On his first run, this guy (who gets paid to ski) flailed the whole way down—while skiing forward.

But don't get me wrong. I think skiing switch is fun and I admire what guys like Tanner can do with it. But there's no way it's the deciding factor in attracting new people to the sport. Having fun is the deciding factor—and nothing in the sport is as much fun as charging untracked snow at speed.

For what it's worth, I hope your prediction comes true and the skiers of the future are all out flailing, trying to ski switch through powder. That way, I'll be an old man getting freshies while the kids flop around. Come to think of it, the sooner everyone skis switch, the better.

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