I had to write a short 500-word-essay at uni on any kind of community, so I decided to compare the freestyle community to the alpine/racing community. Thought someone here might care to read it.
Keep in mind that the intended reader is a non-skier, and that the we were on the clock. Also, there is absolutely no claim of truth (so no need to fight me over some detail).
The Evolution of the Freestyle-Skiing Community
Skiing as a sport has been around for a while now. However, the sub-genre of freestyle-skiing had its birth rather recently. Like snowboarding, it emerged in the last part of the twentieth century and became part of the Olympic winter games in 2014, while nordic skiing had already had its Olympic debut in 1924, and alpine-skiing respectively in 1936. Although the skiing and snowboarding communities do share a history of being somewhat competitive and hostile towards each other, this essay will focus on the relationship between the alpine (racing) skiers and the freestyle-skiing-community.
Despite the evident differences, freestyle skiing shares numerous traits with skateboarding – the most significant hereby being the expression of freedom, in which there is no need to conform to any kind of rules or etiquette. These pastimes were originally focused on creativity and pushing the boundaries of what was possible. The lack of a rulebook or any guidelines of sort made this mandatory. Furthermore, one had to work with the given circumstances, which also contributed to the diversity of the sport. For example, in places with a rather limited access to mountains - or the necessary infrastructure to scale them – street skiing emerged, conquering (hand-)rails and other common city obstacles in as creative ways possible.
These circumstances helped form a community with a strong sense of family, in which the members are a constant inspiration to each other and keep pushing their creativity and ideas. While there certainly are “big names“ in the sport due to their performance in competitions, the community tends to reward uniqueness and style more than competition results.
In contrary to this traditionally very undefined and boundless discipline, alpine skiing has always had a more direct and straightforward set of goals and rules. As with sports like running, there is not much difference in the variety of techniques. The difference here lies within performance and execution. These factors lead to a community in which rivalries (although mostly friendly) are much more common.
In the last two decades, the freestyle skiing community has undergone immense changes and progress; Tricks prior unimaginable are now being done regularly and the equipment has adapted to fit new needs. Many athletes train year-round to keep up with a continually competitive scene of professionals. One could argue that this is simply the course of an emerging discipline, and the modern alpine-skiing community is merely a result of its hundred-year history – while the freestyle sport is heading in a similar direction.
There is however a core group preaching the importance of staying true to the roots of freedom and not giving in to rules, structures and organizations – even such as the Olympics. They claim that the beloved sport is being stripped of its originality and uniqueness for the sake of conformity and industry. With the sport’s name being free-style, their concern is understandable – although the industry’s support does have a value as it benefits the sport by acquiring new fans and encouraging innovation (e.g. in ski-technology).
Both sports’ communities undeniably have their legitimacy. The question remains if there is a normative evolution process, or if it is possible for the freestyle-community to keep their distinguishing traits on the long run. It seems as if only time can tell how this sport will evolve.