Some quick shots from the Men's slope style at Mammoth Mountain
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because rollerblading is in its dark ages, it shouldn't mean we have to
ski in it.
From left to right: Franky Morales, Brian Shima, Chris Haffey, and JF Cusson
Words and photos by Jeff King
Chris Haffey, Brian
Shima, and Franky Morales are naturally talented athletes who just happen
to be learning to ski. They also happen to be three of the best inline
skaters ever. Sunice sent JF Cusson to oversee the project, and for three days at Mammoth Mountain they skied and had a
good time, you can't hate on that...but scroll to the bottom and start
flaming if you so desire. Otherwise read on and be enlightened.
Skiing and inline skating (or rollerblading, whichever you prefer) have actually had a longer standing relationship than newschool skiing itself has existed. If you were alive in the early '90s, cross-training on line skates was fairly common for skiers, and if you still read SKI magazine, it could still be today. There are two vastly different sides to rollerblading: the purely recreational side with its fashion blades, and aggressive street skating. Most of inline street skating's image issues could be blamed on the generic commercial success of its other side. Being highly accessible sounds great, but anything associated with soccer moms and one-footed slalom is so at odds with a "core" lifestyle, it's hard to exist separately, let alone be distinctively unique. Newschool skiing doesn't have to worry so much about these issues—skiing is still skiing to anyone else, and stretch pants were never that warm anyway. Still, street skating goes on regardless of being dropped from the X-games, losing sponsors, and contests disappearing. Remember when the X-games had inline downhill, you probably remember street luge, so let's not measure a sports relevance by its acceptance in a made for TV spectacle put on by Disney.
Today in 2007, think about skiing 12 years ago, then imagine it eight years from now. Consider what would happen if in eight hypothetical years, skiing went into decline again, like a tech bubble bursting. All the haters who said skiing was lame when the park was dominated by snowboarders, are saying, "See, I told you so." Would you stop skiing, or even pretend you never did it at all? That's the path aggressive inline skating has taken the last 20 years. If skiing never quite eclipses snowboarding, you might see something like this happen... not saying it's probably, but it's possible. Meteoric rises are usually followed by a steep descent, after all. You could say that newschool skiing is just now taking off after fueling up the last 10 years. Sponsor dollars and the pure number of pro-level events make easy indicators. Ski superpipe went from a non-event to the headline event live on ESPN in only four years, with that event alone probably the reason for Simon Dumont's major sponsorship with Target. Thankfully, newschool skiing has the huge benefit of a well-established, centuries-old lifestyle image to lean on for support. In contrast, nobody's parents ever taught them to skateboard or rollerblade.
The secret to staying warm is of course layering.
Tricks and technique aside, inline skating and skiing don’t share a whole lot if you disregard the manufacturers who make both skis and inline skates. K2 was at one time a huge player making park skates, but what hasn’t K2 made over the years? Until now the two sports have never shared a high-level athlete (I’m not sure Nicky Adams counts). Kaya Turski (NSRadio interview) is the new shining example of someone taking her inline experience and translating it so directly into ski success. Back in the day, the three Phills all skated inline park together as well. There have always been skiers who have skateboarded too, and if skateboarding can make you ski like Candide Thovex then maybe he knows something we don't. I'm not suggesting that skiers should be rollerblading to become better skiers, that is not the intent of this article. A little bit of variety is good for everyone and drawing influences from outside of skiing can't be a bad thing (snowboarding has been sucked dry). Nothing exists in a bubble anymore; the free exchange of ideas, the internet, all that good stuff. Hopefully all three of the skaters in this story have taken something away from their skiing experience to change the way they look at street skating as well.
So if Kaya can do it, why not a male professional? Kaya maybe has the advantage being French Canadian (I haven't quite figured that one out yet), but there’s no logical reason why three of the best male inliners couldn’t pull it off. This is where Chris Haffey, Brian Shima, and Franky Morales come in. However, all three take up residence well towards the Southern Hemisphere, with more sunshine in a year than most Scandinavians have seen in a lifetime.
Franky calmly cruised off his first chair off load ever... disappointing everyone who's ever seen a Warren Miller movie.
LP and JF are keeping a watch-full eye on Franky's $70 binding mount.
Franky Morales’s first day skiing was normal enough: fell down a few times, learned how to turn, side slip, stop, jump, and tried a rail. Come day two, he was pretty much on his own, hitting the three jump lines and just generally flying around faster than I thought safe for someone who had never been on snow before yesterday. Haffey and Shima had a few days head start over at Bear Mountain before coming to Mammoth, which at times left Franky pushing hard to try and keep up. But in the Unbound south park on the three-jump line at the end of his second day skiing, Franky Morales attempted and landed his first 360.
Franky version 2.0 on his second day on skis
JF looks on as Brian Shima cross trains for rollerblading
Brian Shima and Chris Haffey got in a few days at Bear Mountain in the weeks leading up to their trip to Mammoth. That head start served them well in getting their skis under control and gaining the little confidence they were lacking to take a few leaps in the park. To say that everyone learned fast would be misleading, because either I didn't know what fast learning was or I'm just lacking a lot of talent. Regardless, witnessing such constant progression over such a short period was more inspiring than demoralizing. The fact that nobody fell hard or even at all, was for a while... sorta scary. Ideas were being thrown around that just didn’t sound right—thankfully , Chris Haffey did not hit the huge bottom kicker in the main park. Then at times, things progressed out of nowhere fast, like when Shima and Haffey started one-upping each other with 180s in the mini park. Or when rails became too easy just to slide, we have to start spinning off now. A couple 270 attempts may not have been successful, but it was only day two, after all. Shima did clean a one-footed grind at the end of the day in true rollerblading fashion on a flat down rail. I guess it was to be expected then that the guys could handle rails no problem—after all, they're used to much burlier rails high over flat concrete.
Brian Shima de-tunes his skis early on day 1
Chris Haffey follows suit
Lesson #2, a down kink on day 2. Lesson #3 switch on, back side 360 change up, date tbd.
So with the rail progress on the back burner, day three on snow brought about a more focused jump approach. Day one and two had plenty of 180s and a few warm up 3s. JF Cusson was along the first two days giving pointers and the ground work was well underway to then progress into the main park with some larger jumps.
On our last day, after just a few jumps Franky unfortunately had to take
a seat due to a pre-existing hand injury. That left Brian Shima and
Chris Haffey to try and match each other hit for hit on the two top jumps
in Mammoth's main park. Until now they had proven themselves fast learners,
or at least that years of doing extremely gnarly things on rollerblades is decent preparation for instantly grasping the basics of park skiing
overnight. All thre guys were in agreement that the only thing worrying them
while jumping was speed, it just wasn’t quite instinctual yet on
skis. The high winds and frigid temperatures didn’t make for a comfortable
learning environment either.
Chris Haffey launches a lofty 180 under calmer winds on day 3
Franky goes large in a large setting. Speaking of setting, a broken bone in his right hand which doctors said should keep him from skating for a while, finally forced an end to his ski trip not long after this shot.
Shima warms up with a 360 lui-kang
The guys warmed up with 180s and 360s before attempting their first ever 540s on skis. The jump was a reasonable size for trying new things, with about 15 feet of deck to clear and a good long landing to go bigger if needed. Brian Shima employed his now signature Lui-Kang style on some smooth 360s and was the first to throw a 540. From that point on Chris and Brian tossed a series of 5s, usually airing the second larger table and lapping the park as quickly as possible.
for Chris Haffey, learning to land backwards was best done with more air time to think about it.
540, why spin faster when you can just go bigger.
Time was now running out on the experiment, and the only thing left to do was switch tricks. Bigger spins and a variety of grabs will come with time and experience. Yet the hypothesis for now is proven by the existence of some real potential. Brian and Chris had done all these tricks before, not necessarily on a smaller scale but certainly in a more familiar setting. Skate ramps are to tables as urethane wheels to wax and snow, and the instincts that kick in while traveling through the air didn’t need any translation. So when the first switch 3 was done on the first attempt by Chris Haffey, I think I was over being surprised. Or when Chris went for the first switch 5, losing a ski on takeoff, finishing the rotation and landing on one ski wasn’t out of the ordinary. Stomping the second attempt, then, was obviously logical.
The only important question in the end was, can three people who have never skied before become addicted like us? So while you're reading this article on a website designed for feeding and spreading the addiction, you can hopefully identify with genuine excitement and newfound passion. We all know you're never to old to learn something new... sometimes you just have to find out if you're willing.
Brian Shima is more than willing to do a 360
If you're ever around Bear Mountain on a weekday, look for Franky Morales, Brian Shima, and Chris Haffey having a lot of fun and probably trying not to freeze their asses off... they’re beta testing to see if wearing all black might just help.
Check out Barely Dead by misled lab films http://misledlab.com see where rollerblading came from and where it is currently.
Chris Haffey rides for Remz, 4x4, Ground Control, Juggernaut, Vibralux, Night
Brian Shima rides for 4x4, Razors, Ground Control, Vicious
Franky Morales rides for Remz, M1 Urethane, Ground Control, Juggernaut, Skatepile, Renegade Bearings
Some quick shots from the Men's slope style at Mammoth Mountain
To celebrate the occasion, Mammoth has announced a new season pass that includes unrestricted access to all four mountains at the discounted rate of $689 for adults.
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