By: Henrik Lampert
May 7, 2012
Where We Are
As seen in the February 2012 issue of FREESKIER.
Words: Ryan Dunfee — Photo: Chris O’Connell
Skiing is having another identity crisis. We’re headed back to the Olympics after shucking their narrow idea of what skiing could be, and we’re still just a little bit insecure with our standing as an “action sport,” up there with the relatively unified counterculture perception of snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing. While skiing’s history of convention and establishment have kept us from being as successful in exuding a rebellious image—something we’ve lamented off and on since freeskiing’s informal birth in 1997—it may be time to recognize that skiing stands on its own two feet for a different set of reasons. There, doesn’t that feel better already?
In the 35,000-foot cultural view, skiing has generally represented the establishment and the conventional way of doing things. Thankfully, for those of us who actually ski, we’ve been blessed with a host of heroes in the past 40 years who have redefined the parameters of the ski experience. Skiers like Wayne Wong introduced hot-dogging in the early 1970s, which for the first time in skiing’s history emphasized style over speed. In the late ‘80s, a formerly jailed car thief, Glen Plake, who was introduced as a “Mohican terrorist” in Greg Stump’s timeless Blizzard of Aahhhs, went to Chamonix with Mike Hattrup and Scot Schmidt. They then billy-goated down every crevassed-out couloir they could find and introduced extreme skiing to the world. Ten years later, at the awards ceremony of the first U.S. Freeskiing Open at Vail, JP Auclair held up the first pair of yellow Salomon 1080s and freeskiing had its first vessel for creativity. A few weeks later, Jonny Moseley won the Nagano Olympic mogul competition with an immaculate 360 mute grab, left pole poked high into the air, and redefined for a worldwide audience what skiing could be. And that was when the story was supposed to be about snowboarding’s first Olympic halfpipe contest only a few venues over.