Sick of the mountains
When you grow up skiing all your life in Denver, as many natives have, you get your fill of the local resorts. Sure, they’re awesome, by far the best skiing in the United States but what do you do when you have been to Breckenridge and Aspen hundreds of times or seen what all the buzz is about Vail more times than you can count? Well some of the more adventurous skiers turn to what is known as urban skiing. We have to warn you that it’s not for the faint of heart but if you’re brave enough, it’s pretty freaking awesome.
Skiing in the city
Urban skiing is hitting the streets of your local neighborhood, or anybody’s neighborhood, with your skis. The growing popularity of this activity could be thanks in large part to YouTube. Do a search there and you will find hours of awesome urban skiing videos. There are several different mountains that have built rails or other elements to try your tricks on but it’s just not the same as what you can find in urban skiing. Urban skiing offers skiers the chance to go down rails, stairs, downhill streets, medians or absolutely anything that they think they can clear. Normally the more extreme the skiing looks in a video, the better the chance of the video going viral are. Skiers also make these urban skiing videos and photo shoots in an attempt to get published in professional skiing publications. The criteria for professional publications and YouTube videos are the same; if it looks too easy, nobody will want to watch it.
Although urban skiing can make for some awesome videos and give skiers who venture in to it some pretty incredible highs, there is a serious downside to it; the risk of injuries. Not all serious injuries due to urban skiing have been documented but one of the most popular cases was the one of Will Schooler who died after a head injury while skiing a handrail in 2011. There are risks associated with skiing even on a mountain designated to the sport but those risks are even greater when you are skiing on urban terrain. When you are skiing in urban areas you are attempting to ride on terrain that was never designed for that purpose. As a result you have no idea what the conditions are. You obviously want to go urban skiing in areas that are covered in a significant amount of snow and that snow can be your friend and your enemy. Snow covers up obstacles that you won’t see until it’s too late. Many professional photographers who have worked with urban skiers have been known to pull the plug on a project if they think that it’s too dangerous. Some areas are safer than others for the activity and each skier should know their abilities before they take up the activity, it is absolutely not for beginners.
Skiing the backcountry
Advanced skiers have been known for years to venture off the more traditional slopes. Backcountry skiing has been an activity for those bored with ski resorts for as long as skiing has been a sport. Recent studies have shown that due to avalanche risk, backcountry skiing is actually more dangerous than urban skiing. We aren’t encouraging any novices to participate in an activity that isn’t safe but if you are going to venture off mainstream slopes, urban skiing just might be your safer bet. The best thing you can do is take a thorough survey of your urban skiing terrain so that there aren’t any dangerous surprises when you take off on your urban skiing adventure. As always, it’s best to ski with a buddy but if that’s not possible at least tell someone where you are going in case an emergency happens. And don’t even think of starting to urban ski without wearing a helmet. Happy Skiing!
- License: Creative Commons image source
Austin Bourke is a full-time writer and part-time ski bum who lives in Denver, CO.