Revenge of the Skinny-Ski Nerds

Fall Line

Two words will tell you that

the park-and-pipe revolution is complete: Air Nordic. Just watch 21-year-old Andrew Newell pull a few tricks. What he’s doing in the air-dinner rolls, big-air backflips, switch rodeos and the like-is not so unusual, but what’s on his feet is.

This U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team star is performing X Games-worthy maneuvers on nordic skis skinnier than your wrist. “I’d like to think I can go as big as any alpine skier,” says Newell, a pioneer in a fledgling nordic freestyle movement that’s catching air nationwide. Terrain park features are popping up at nordic centers, such as Northstar-at-Tahoe and Tahoe Donner in California and Sunday River in Maine. Ski-maker Fischer is fine-tuning JibSkate, a nordic twin-tip due to hit shelves next winter.

“The lightweight gear makes it really easy for kids to learn freestyle and try new maneuvers,” says Tor Brown, Northstar-at-Tahoe’s nordic director and one of the new sport’s top promoters. Of course, Brown admits, wide skis and metal edges do have their benefits. But there are advantages to doing without both. Start with the ability to push off within 20 yards of a jump, do a trick, and then immediately skate back up the hill to try it again. “Most people think you’re nuts,” Newell says. “At least until they see you pull off bigger moves than most of the people out there.”

But the biggest advantage to nordic freestyle is that you don’t need a mountain at all, enthusiasts say. “Think skateboard park,” explains Fischer’s Peter Ashley. “You can pull off tricks in urban areas, in backyards, just about anywhere. All you need is a pile of snow.”