Freeskiing is a modern movement. It involves using skis as a medium to express oneself, to perfect technical skills, and to get thrills. The progression of skill each year is amazing. Freeskiing involves riding twin tip skis, skis with tails the same height as noses in order to make riding backwards possible, on jumps, rails, cliffs, and any other obstacle one can embrace. Spinning and grabbing while in the air or on a rail adds technical skill and style. While we are often associated with snowboarders, freeskiers have harbored a uniquely tight and interactive community. Riding park skis gives one an identity; riding and learning with other skiers gives one life long friends. While many people relate our culture to irresponsibility, trouble, reckless acts, and a waste of time, the freeskiing community unites through attitude, music, style, and a shared passion to create a tight identity of young men and women that exemplifies fun, determination, beauty, and risk assessment.
Countless lessons have been learned from me playing in the snow. From practical to moral ideas, my experience of life has been greatly enhanced because of snow. Many people perceive the pastime as reckless and fruitless. In reality, skiers gain a lot of character from riding and progressing. Determination, social skills, risk assessment, and even self expression go hand in hand with freeskiing. The basic principle of freeskiing is progressing, and learning new tricks and perfecting old tricks does not come easy at all. Many times one will fall twenty times before the stunt is completed; then once it is completed, incredible effort is put into making it look smooth and good. ‘Sessioning’ – hitting a single jump or rail for a period of time usually with a group of people – is a perfect example of the skiing community. Ten men will just ski a single rail for an hour, and by the end of the hour everyone has learned something; everyone has progressed. The entire group is encouraging and ‘stoked’ when another lands a difficult trick, but each individual plans to out due the rest with a display of creative, technical, and stylish maneuvers. The social attitude and determination of every individual involved in a ‘session’ becomes contagious and very healthy for developing character.
Skiing for many young people is an extension, a way to push one’s physical limits and find out how far one can go. On skis one has complete control and seemingly unlimited possibilities. Many people, however, tend to forget their limits and push too hard. Freeskiing has a lot to do with ‘balls’ or guts – how brave one is; whoever can jump the highest and ski the fastest gets respect from everyone. But disrespect goes to the men who blindly go out and try to be the fastest and biggest. ‘Hucking’, forcing a difficult trick or dropping a cliff without much preparation, is actually frowned upon. Freeskiers would rather see a stylish 180 than a hucked 1080. Steeze is a popular and very insightful term used by freeskiers; it derives from ‘easy style’. Steeze is used to describe a maneuver, when done correctly, which looks easy and stylish. Many consider riding rails and jumps an art form, and one’s individual style is the most important aspect of the piece. Beauty is the main component of freeskiing; making something incredibly difficult and dangerous look easy and stylish is the ultimate goal of a freeskier, for then they will become ‘steezy’.
The thing that surprised me from observing the culture was the mass consumerism; however, it makes perfect sense. Middle to upper class, white males that are in tight communities focused on style and function of goods. The freeskiing community pushes the envelope though. Many kids will buy new outerwear every year, just to have this years model; pants and jacket together can easily cost $650. A complete set-up for skis ranges from $700 to often $1000 and more. Not only is the equipment expensive, the culture is obsessed with it. If one rides without baggy pants, then less respect goes to him; he is considered to lack ‘steeze’. A lot is assumed by how one dresses and what skis one rides on the mountain. A lot of thought is put into how every individual looks. Freeskiers get their style mainly from the snowboarding industry, and both sports borrow a lot of style from the hip hop industry. Baggy clothes, bandanas, bright colors, and tall beanies define clothing ‘steeze’. The culture does not only borrow clothing styles from hip hop, but the music is at the core of the community as well. There is no better music than hip hop when riding park. The beats, the attitude, and the essence of hip hop compliments park skiing perfectly; all the progressive movie segments, park competitions, and rider’s headphones feature hip hop.
Most consider professional movie segments, X games, and magazines to define freeskiing. The real definition involves a group of friends progressing, sessioning, bonding, and most of all having fun together. It is harnessing one’s new found power, being on skis, and creating something beautiful. The culture derives from the shared passion of creating such beauty, and having a blast while doing so.