“I don’t want to jump off cliffs.”, my son said after I tried to explain the, ‘Drop Cliffs Not Bombs’, t-shirts and beanie’s in the shop. The epipheral words of my six-year-old bounced around in my head with the echos of disappointment and disapproval of every ski town dad who dreams his son will be a big mountain skier like his dad until I drifted into a deep sleep. I don’t know if epipheral is a word, but I knew it was happening again.
That was sometime around 9:00…6 or 7 hours of half decent sleep and one dream where Johnny Dep was my nosey neighbor later, I ate a bowl of cereal and checked in on Twitter. @sbcskier had posted a rare public avalanche warning for the weekend (read it dummies!) and below that, the story; “FIS adds Slopestyle to 2011 Schedule…” I didn’t think much of it, at least it didn’t fully sink in, until I clicked my phone over to Facebook to load a few Dada and Baby pics and there it was (see picture above), my son with his new Head ski boots clicked into his mini Rossi Viper skis backwards. I looked twice, laughed, and uploaded it to FB and Twitter with the caption, “Do you think our kids are trying to tell us something?” And yes, to answer the obvious question, I bought him Armada Jr Coda twin tips immediately. It all makes sense now. After years of slipping Snowboard GS, boarder-x, skier-x, and finally a pipe competition into the Olympic games, the FIS showed its hand and moved into free skiing with a vengeance announcing Skier Pipe in the 2014 games and now this.
“He will grow up all wrong”, I thought to myself stealing a quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s dad in Kundun…a quote that often surfaces with laughs and smiles in our little Whistler home when someone between the ages of 1 and 6 does something so ridiculous that we know we shouldn’t laugh but we don’t know what else to say. Like the time my son said, “Dad, look at Kate…”, and pointed after my daughter climbed up one of the dining room chairs, stood up on the big pine table and started taking bites out of all the apples in our funky wire fruit bowl. I paused for a split second and chose, ‘pick her up with a fake angry face’, over, ‘get the camera’, …I was of course so proud, the way Dad’s are. She will jump off cliffs.
Somewhere it happened…somewhere between the ’97 move back to Whistler and today. First there was Shane McConkey’s full-balls-out naked back-flip in competition (after being disqualified in a mogul comp for getting inverted), then Johnny Moseley – the Golden Boy – taking Nagano, K2 dropping Glen Plake (WTF K2?), and ultimately the advent of all those park and pipe pics in Powder (?) Magazine. I remember putting a an ‘FIS Sucks’ sticker on my helmet when the first FIS Big Air comp arrived wondering why those guys in Europe were so set against seeing skiers with their Rossi roosters upside-down. A decade or 2 later it is happening again and Mike Douglas was right…FIS sucks because everyone did do exactly the same tricks at the 2010 games.
Rewind to 1969…or if you weren’t born yet, find a VCR and plug-in Downhill Racer or The Ski Bum if you can find a copy or better yet read the book. I know generation-i will never go for reading an actual book with pages and words let alone find a VHS, but maybe that is why it is happening and why so many skiers are going along for the FIS ride…again. In the 60’s, as far as I can tell, skiing was counter-culture in North America and European sponsors couldn’t wait to get their hands (logo’s) on all the Dave Chaplain’s who dreamed of being Olympic Champions…the same sponsors with the same sports cars who are driving the FIS machine today. I know, I secretly want a Porsche Panamera as much as the next guy reading Ellen McGirt’s Fast Company cover story on “Twitter TV” and the shift to interactive media, but don’t you see it’s happening again?
Don’t underestimate the not so subtle shift. In the 70’s and 80’s, between disco and big hair, the ski hill was the only place it was hip and cool to be Euro while our American cousins like Billy Kid and Tommy Moe were bringing home alpine gold medals (Canadians take note…no alpine Gold for us) European brands and sponsors monopolized the sport. Skiing was king in neon and tight pants, Porsche was back with a new 911 Carrera, and FIS was the only game in town. Taking the obvious one step further…the only debate was where the best skis were made, Germany, Austria or France.
Then it happened…like it always does…we caught on. Skiers in the early 90’s finally figured out long skinny skis didn’t work in powder, the legendary Crazy Canucks were gone, El Nino arrived in their place, most of us skipped a generation of loving ski racing, FIS cancelled more Whistler World Cups due to heavy snow than I can remember and our friends on one board* reminded us that ‘this aint Europe’. We remembered we drive Chevy Silverado 4×4’s because Porsche’s won’t make it up the driveway when it snows 30cm’s more than 30 times in a winter (not that we could afford them), Army Surplus wool pants were $30, the K2 Extreme was undeniably the coolest ski on Earth and I couldn’t finish reading Generation X to save my life but I knew landing a management job in Whistler would let me write my own schedule…aka ski every day. (*Ever wonder why SBC Skier exists…aka Snow Board Canada Skier…because they get it .)
Maybe cutting off the cable TV and skiing every day for a decade left me in the dark, or maybe it was Johnny Moseley, or maybe it was Mike Weigle dropping the Powder 8 World Championships (what a tragedy) or the release of liability that opened terrain parks and pipes to skiers at almost every ski hill on the continent…hell, maybe it was the endless snow and alpine lift closures that drove the kids to the park, I don’t know, but I know they’re back and it’s happening again.