Cover Photo: Erik Tomasak
For a sport that was the fastest growing by some margin at the turn of the 21st Century, skating sure has taken a dive towards the underground. In the past 8-10 years, 'Aggressive Inline' has become almost invisible to the casual observer, though when I'm in the city between ski seasons, I can see signs of a slight resurgence.
From the skiing side, there's always been a reluctance to associate inline with skiing. But the fact remains there IS a strong relationship between the two sports. We face the same way, we do royales, backslides, fastslides and makios (though we don' generally call makios by their name). We both have a history of being looked down upon by our sideways sliding neighbours and at times shared brands like D-Structure, Salomon and K2 too. Oh and it's no coincidence that some of the smoothest skiers have an inline background or take to skates in the offseason because that shit teaches you a precision on both rails and landings, that only a select few learn on skis alone. The two activities feed off of each other and that is rarely clearer than in what has to be considered the greatest 'summer edit' ever seen on NS from skier and pro blader, Dima Makrushin. To check out his skills on snow, watch any Life Steeze Media Film.
Dima Makrushin skates the streets of Moscow with clear ski influence. Credit: Life Steeze Media
For three of our most respected pros, Dan Hanka, Khai Krepela and perhaps most notably Kaya Turski, blading was their gateway sport. Kaya was, and still is, a top pro blader. We spoke to both Dan and Khai to discuss how blading helped shape them into the skiers they are today.
"I got into skating in about 5th grade. I moved to a new elementary school with only about 5 kids in it, one of them being McRae Williams who introduced me to both blading and park skiing. Just about every single skier from my gen in park city used to be bladers in the summer and skiers in the winter. I took to skating more than skiing so I ended up getting a few sponsors and filming some parts/competing. I took it very seriously and it eventually made me burn out, so I switched to pursuing skiing around the age of 17." - Khai Krepela
This is one of my all time favourite edits, you can see those landing skills in full effect. Thanks Khai.
"I started skiing and blading started at kinda the same time I guess, but actually the tricks started sooner on blades because we already had some skateparks in my hometown and I could mess around in the city too. On skis it was harder, because it took longer to actually master the skiing itself and reach the level of control that I could actually get to think about doing more than just skiing down the hill. I only got to ski like 2 months maximum per year, roughly once a week, but I could blade any time. I remember blading to school like an hour earlier so I could hit a ledge nearby and after school going straight to the skatepark or hit some other stuff. And so I took blading more seriously. I watched videos and got stoked... Leading The Blind was the first video I ever saw and it influenced me the most. But I had no idea until much later that I could actually do tricks on skis. Basically blading was just more affordable for me. I was just chilling in the streets with my homies without needing to travel long distances, sleep in hotels, buy liftpasses, boots, outerwear, eat in expensive restaurants etc. I had one pair of fucked up jeans, a couple t-shirts, my blades and that was all I needed." - Dan Hanka
The vast majority of us don't have access to glaciers or dry slopes in the summer and yet for so many, the desire is there to improve their ski skills in the summer. And so many skiers spend countless hours in their backyards bouncing on tramps and hitting summer setups. And those things work on a valuable skill set for sure. But so does hopping on a pair of skates, which also gets you exploring the streets at the same time.
Kaya got gnarly on skates, it's not really a surprise she could take those skills to win X-Games 8 times on two planks.
Does skating help skiing? "Well, I think it does" Dan tells me. "Blading is super similar to skiing. And I honestly don't understand all the hate that blading has to deal with. I think blading is fucking sick and so underrated. You're doing super tech rail tricks and have to aim for 2cm grind plates, which means you have to be really precise. Same with landing tricks, you have no tip or tail to hold you while landing backseat, you just need to land perfectly every time."
Khai credits blading for his ninja-like landing skills too. "Skating definitely influenced my skiing. I think it taught me some great skills like landing bolts instead of relying on my tips/tails to keep me up. I've had a few people through the years say I have "blader style" which I've always taken as a compliment, haha".
Watch the last trick in the blade edit, then watch the skiing... Ring any bells?
And as Dan points out, there's also a fitness and power element to blading which makes you a better skier. "Most of the time, there are no take offs on the rails or ledges or whatever you're hitting... so you really need to work on your pop, otherwise - no tricks for you, sorry. Some skaters can do tricks on shoulder high ledges or rails, so when you have that ability it definitely helps you on skis. Because the pop you need for a rail spot on skates, you have it on jumps and you're able to pop way more than others and it's the same with the balance for rails. It can certainly be considered a way of practising for skiing I think. It definitely offers you a different way of thinking and some extra skills you can use in your own way in skiing."
But perhaps most importantly, skating is seriously fun. I messed around on skates for a summer, despite being a lifelong skateboarder. I sucked, but even a few short weeks on skates improved my landings on skis no end and I had a great time trying a new way of getting around the streets. Phil and Henrik know it, they've both had hookups for blades. Henrik does both ways nosebutter dubs into foam pits on skates to practice and Phil oozes style on them just like he does on skis. If you find yourself in need of a shred in the summer, or a way to hone your balance, you could do a lot worse than picking up some skates. Who knows, you might even find a new hobby.