Fads and fashions on the slopes have been coming and going for a long time. Some return every few years, while most lose their momentum and screech to a halt like a snowboarder on a Vail traverse.
Here are some of the more memorable ones: MONOSKIS: When surfers turned to the slopes in the 1970s and ’80s, conventional skis must not have seemed gnarly enough. They developed monoskis, in which both feet were strapped in next to each other on a double-wide ski, facing in the direction of the board. Monoskiing hit a popularity peak in France in the mid-’80s, but after snowboards came out a few years later, the monoski mostly disappeared. The Skwal, a monoski in which the feet are strapped in heel-to-toe, follows the same basic principle.
BOTA BAGS: Before there was Camelbak, there was the bota bag. Also known as a wineskin, these leather sacks could be slung over your shoulder and provided ready access to water or, more appropriately, wine. You don’t see them on the slopes much these days, but they can still be bought on many Web sites. Perfect to go with your wooden skis and laced boots.
SKI BLADES: Wouldn’t it be fun if you could roller skate on the snow? No, it turns out, but that didn’t stop plenty of people from trying. Ski blades, mini-skis a couple feet long or smaller, hit the skiing world a few years back. They were much lighter than alpine skis, had a smaller turning radius and functioned like snowshoes while walking. But, it turned out, they were also horribly unworkable in powder and, since most were designed to be used with non releasing bindings, could leave you with some nasty injuries in a fall. Blades can still be seen on the slopes from time to time.
SPEED SKIING: In Albertville, France, at the 1992 Winter Olympics, speed skiing debuted as a demonstration sport, as skiers in aerodynamic helmets raced downhill at 150 miles per hour. It never became an official Olympic sport, after several deaths revealed the inherent danger, but that hasn’t stopped skiers from heading out with these ultra-thin, ultra-long skis. The website www.ifyouski.com recommends “fire-retardant highdensity foam back protection, so that if (or when) you fall, you don’t burn your back.”
THE SONY WALKMAN: The cassette tape revolution of the late 1970s meant you could finally ski with Journey blasting in your ears. And the belt clip on the back side of the tape player ensured a nice bruise when you fell on it.
SKIING IN BLUE JEANS: How could stiff, freezing denim be a bad idea high on a snowy mountain? A generation of skiers learned to shred in blue jeans — old hats sprayed them with Scotchgard — and a few can still be seen on the slopes today, making their way to the ski lodge bar by 11 a.m. because their pants are frozen.
THE TWO-PERSON CHAIRLIFT: Before eight-seat express lifts whisked people up the hill before you could even spark a conversation with the other skiers, there was the slow, prodding two-seater lift. You got to know your new friend for 10 minutes or so, got to hoot and chatter with the skier who took a yard sale under the chair and maybe take a sip of wine from your bota bag. Two-seaters still reign at smaller mountains or the back sides of bigger mountains, but otherwise are becoming more common as lawn furniture for oldtimers who learned to ski in jeans.Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.