Is The Future Of Skiing Dry?

Lindsay Hayden | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Dryslope skiing in Virginia
Throwing it off at Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre in Virginia. Photo courtesy of Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre.

As summer settles in, your favorite pow runs turn into mountain bike trails, and even the latest closing dates begin to pass, what is a poor skier to do? Sure you could hike, bike, or rollerblade but nothing beats the feeling of your planks beneath your feet. Insert: dry slope skiing. A dry slope consists of a snowless mountain covered in a synthetic plastic surface that when skied down mimics the feeling of snow. The U.K. has become a champion of dry slope skiing, with the majority of their mountains coated in plasticWhile this year-round snow replacement is a great innovation for skiers of all skill sets, it will never take the place of ripping into a fresh line of pow .  

When skiing at a dry slope, there’s no concern about whether the snow conditions are good or bad, which makes for a good environment to hone your technique. However, you can’t just expect to hop on a dry slope and have all the moving parts feel like normal. Holding an extreme edge grip is essential for skiing on a dry slope, and requires exaggerated movements in order to achieve the same mobility as an on-snow experience. However, once you’ve adjusted to plastic skiing, the possibilities are endless… freestyle skiers, ski racers, and groomer lovers can all find what they’re looking for at a dry slope.

The Snowflex Games
Synthetic shredding at the Snowflex Games. Photo courtesy of Kevin Manguiob/Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre.

Emma Carrick Anderson, four time Olympic ski racer, grew up in Scotland, an unusual place for a quality ski mountain; however, in her early years she got her training in on the dry slopes of Hillend, Edinburgh. Anderson says, “Although it doesn’t give quite the same sensations as snow, skiing it was a great substitute and I have very fond memories of blasting through the gates on various dry slopes”. While the feel of dry slope is different than real snow, Anderson attests to its benefits in honing the technical and mental aspects of her skiing.

Racing on dry slope
Training future racers at Buckhill Ski & Snowboard Area in Burnsville, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Buckhill Ski & Snowboard Area.

While dry slopes are a great option for the most dedicated skiers to stay in shape all year, they still function as more of a training ground as they can’t deliver that sparkling snow aura that surrounds you as you blast down a snow covered mountain. However, dry slope has sparked interest throughout the shredder community, as our changing environment continues to spark concerns about global warming. With an iceberg the size of Delaware breaking off of Antarctica last month the world has been given another wake-up call to these extreme effects that could pinpoint global warming as the root cause. Although the experts are still debating whether or not human-driven global warming triggered this breakage, Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA JPL said, “This is not a natural cycle. This is the response of the system to a warmer climate from the top and from the bottom. Nothing else can cause this”. Even without a conclusive decision on the cause of the recent glacial activity, this iceberg of record size reminds the winter sports community of just how vulnerable our favorite season is.

Early this summer Jeremy Jones, professional snowboarder and founder/president of Protect Our Winters, wrote a letter to President Trump expressing the very personal consequences that global warming has for winter lovers. Jone says, “I did not need science to tell me snow lines are rising, weather is getting more erratic and more extreme, and that glaciers are melting at a rapid rate”. While the state of our winters are in jeopardy when it comes to climate change, Jones also questions how we will explain the mess we have created to our children. Our changing mountains are a consequence of global warming that hits too close too home, and when deciding whether to lose our snow and be faced with skiing dry slopes forever or taking a stand on environmental policy, the choice is simple for the winter sports community.

Dry slope skiing will never take the place of actual skiing; however, with recent changes in our environment it is ominous to imagine our lives without winter.


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One thought on “Is The Future Of Skiing Dry?

  1. Great article giving an overview of synthetic snow sports (a.k.a. “dry slope skiing”), and why it is going to become increasingly important to the sport.

    One part that I don’t agree with though is the difficulty of transitioning from natural snow to synthetic snow. This was true on some of the traditional synthetic surfaces, but the latest products on the market, ProSlope in particular, are much closer to riding natural snow. Riding on ProSlope feels like riding spring conditions.

    We at Urban Snow traveled to the U.K. to try and tried several different surfaces. We have an overview of the materials and history on our facebook page https://tinyurl.com/yamzkevs

    (full disclosure, we are the U.S. distributors for ProSlope)

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