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New York’s Finest

Average guy shows his friends what he can do on skis in downtown New York City, becomes internet sensation. He told us about how to avoid manholes, where the idea came from, and his ski of choice for urban skiing.
By Olivia Dwyer
posted: 01/05/2011

Chris Branca is in the midst of what he calls his “15 seconds” of fame. Following the Christmas blizzard that dumped 20 inches of snow on New York City, he harnessed himself to a Range Rover and dropped into the snowy streets of Manhattan. A video of him skiing down Park Avenue at 40 miles per hour that he sent out to friends has been blowing up the interwebs.

Branca—who is listed as “Scranga” in the video’s credits—is a New York City resident who grew up skiing in Vermont and went to college in Boulder, Colorado. The 29-year-old still averages 20 days a season on a pair of Rossignol Scratch BCs he bought in college.

Had you ever skied behind a car before?

We did it in college but it was to the effect of, we would tow a kid 40 to 50 feet and he would let go and hit a kicker and do a cheesy 360 or a tail grab to kill time. I didn’t want to build a kicker. I just wanted to ski around town.

How would you describe the conditions in New York City?

The snow was light and it wasn’t packed, so you could really move around in it. There were a lot of urban hazards that I had to deal with. On more than one occasion when I would move from one side of the car to the other where they were filming, there would be an obstacle like a steam grate … which is a 4-foot by 8-foot patch of bare nothing. So I was skiing through eight inches of powder and then nothing. And manhole covers that were hot had melted the snow, so my skis got a bit dinged up. On Park Avenue, I skied close to the median to avoid the obstacles.

Are the friends that drove the car skiers? What was their reaction?

I explained [to my friends driving] that the slower they went the harder it would be for me to ski and stay on top of it. They thought I was joking. …none of them are skiers. They were as surprised as most people seeing the video that I could ski and that I was going down Park Avenue at 40 miles per hour. This was a goof that I sent to my buddies. One of my friends sent it to New York magazine and it got all over from there. I just wanted to show my friends what I do when it snows.

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