Photo: Aiden Ulrich/Windells
Grabs are optional, hands drag, dab, bow and flap, and a park bench can be the scene of a movie ender. This is the new wave, at least I think so. The collective camera may be returning to the athletes that the non-endemic sponsors and mainstream media will push into the Olympic spotlight, but the dad-caming, Zootspacing, gram mashing skiers remain fixated on this wild wave of skiers swerving their own niche into skiing.
It’s hard to say whether this group has gone off the deep end, or is deeply ahead of a stylistic curve, but it is certainly obvious that they are doing things that have never been done on skis before, and people are watching. With features in magazines and a clear influence on many aspects of skiing, The Bunch are the 'superstars' of the movement. Making their name with arms wheeling, and landings becoming a process rather than a punctuation, they certainly polarized the viewing community. Fast forward a couple years, and while the controversy remains, those who were once on the fringe now hang an X Games gold medal at home and features in Powder Magazine on the walls. Like it or lump it, they have become an established part of the sport.
Where did this inspiration come from? Flashback to 2013, and skiers like Magnus Graner and LSM were rocking tall tees and poles en-route to their back to back SuperUnknown wins. Nowadays, the the hands-down heavy headed rideaway has been traded for mind-bending butters, tweaks, and manuals. The old adage containing 'two years' and 'snowboarding' may apply to a degree but one thing is certain: regardless of, or perhaps thanks to, their styles these guys are on top of the game.
Magnus in his SuperUnknown winning edit
'Freeskiing' is niche in its own right, with this group of skiers further driving in their own direction. Change doesn’t come from the mainstream, however. The Olympics will not change skiing. Red Bull will not change skiing. X Games will not change skiing. It is the outskirts and the outsiders that change a scene.
Hindsight is the only true tool to see the changing of styles and era. Many try to be different, many fail. However it is obvious that this movement has begun to permeate the greater ski culture. Crews from around the world have donned their tracksuits in a show of solidarity of style. The Hood Crew and companies like Vishnu show obvious ties to the Swedish sultans of the swerve. Track suits and tall tees are near equals in protecting skiers from the snow environs they inhibit, so perhaps the former is on the way to establishing an era, as the later came to represent skiing’s gangster days.
For those dedicated to the sport and in a greater sense the encompassing lifestyle, these trends are simply a veneer on an underlying passion for sliding on snow. A skier is a skier. Regardless, it is the core that speaks the loudest, disseminating style and a forming the perception of the masses. Is the New Wave an official bookend to the gangster movement and the following years of stylistic indifference? Maybe. Time will tell.
As a fire catches, pieces burn out of proportion, or smolder out too soon. Likewise, some will dive in headfirst, busting quickly into a shitshow of forced bowed landings a la maitre d, and wishy-washy “tricks” that look as poor as the kit performs. This try-hard copycating is inevitable. On the other hand, pioneers of the movement may make a quiet exit into obscurity. They will never be recognized. A small minority knows names like Griffin Cummings, and countless others who nudged skiing in new directions and moved on.
Change inevitably leaves some behind, as has already become obvious by the way stylistic modesty has made gangster apparel stick out like a sore thumb. But does that mean the New Wave makes skiers like Tom Wallisch obsolete? It’s hard to shelf a legend, despite prevailing tastes and preferences, yet, a shifting tide begs these questions. Maybe we are witnessing a new revolution in the way people ski. Perhaps it's a reaction to the standardization that the Olympics brought with them, much in the same way as early legends rebelled against mogul skiing.
As CR Stecyk III wrote in the midst of the explosion of modern skateboarding, “The important question is not, ‘Who’s dead?’; it’s, ‘Who’s liver than you’ll ever be?’ Good skating is the name of the game and quality is wherever you find it. If you’re into it, you can take it and do whatever you want with it.” Is gangster skiing finally dead? Is the New Wave on its way to defining an era? Good skiing is the name of the game and quality is wherever you find it. If you’re into it, you can take it and do whatever you want with it.