Whether it was the inspiration for Tom Sims’ first design or Salasnek’s riding style and base graphics from back in the day, skateboarding has always exerted a massive influence on snowboarding. In 2002, with three snowboard brands joining Premier on the snow-skate bandwagon, the merging of street and snow continues to deepen.
Three years ago, skating was the driving force behind Andy Wolf’s move to start Premier Snowskates. Coming from the heavily skate-influenced scene in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wolf wanted something he could use to session the urban terrain in winter without being locked to a snowboard. “I lived by a school in Salt Lake with great cement ledges and wanted something I could have fun with and do real skate tricks,” says Wolf, Premier’s marketing director.
He’s no longer a solitary pioneer. For 2002, the newcomers include heavy-hitters Burton and Salomon, along with long-term skate-brand Santa Cruz.
For all the brands unleashing snow skates in 2002, the focus is on fun. It’s the kind of product you can hop on for a quick trip to the liquor store or grab out of your trunk for an impromptu rail session. “It’s all about what kids can do on their own, building their own parks in the backyard,” says Wolf.
Rob Paglia, a marketing coordinator for Burton, explains that the Vermont company shares this basic vision: “We’re trying to keep it like the old Backhill¿just something kids can go out and have fun on.” Salomon and Santa Cruz back this up as well.
It’s also about accessibility. For a lot of skaters and flatland, urban dwellers, there are massive barriers to going snowboarding: the product costs a shitload, transportation to the hills can be a pain in the ass, and lift tickets generally approach the 60-dollar mark. With snow skates, the product is affordable, and the rest is free. As a result, shops will likely see new customers coming in the door next fall.
Of the four snow skates in 2002, the different designs can neatly be divided into two distinct types: simple injected-plastic designs on the one hand and more complex models that feature “trucks” that connect a skateboard to a single short ski on the other.
Premier and Santa Cruz have elected to go with nearly identical injected-plastic designs for one simple reason: they believe snow skating should be as accessible as possible. With all models priced under 100 dollars, plastic designs ensure affordability. “This is about having fun, being affordable, and getting away from the elitism of snowboarding,” explains Wolf.
Burton and Salomon came out with a more technical, snowboard-influenced approach. These two brands go with similar models that combine an upper skate deck and a lower single ski with metal edges. Definitely designed for the urban or backyard session, these more expensive models (130 to 170 dollars) are also great for controlled riding at resorts. “As a technology-driven company, Salomon has to start with the high-end tech stuff, but maybe we’ll offer a plastic model sometime in the future,” explains Greg Keeling, Salomon North America’s product marketing manager.
The involvement of teamriders is a key ingredient for most of the brands in the snow-skate business. Premier features pro models from JP Walker and Nicolas Droz, Santa Cruz-rider Gian Simmen is out on his snow skate whenever he’s not strapped into his snowboard, and Burton proteges like Shaun White have been seen landing shove its down small sets of stairs.
Is it the next lifestyle sport like skateboarding, surfing, or snowboarding? Will people sell drugs and prostitute themselves in pursuit of the snow-skate lifestyle? Probably not. As Santa Cruz Product Manager Brett Sigur points out, “It’s a great accessory for the snowboard and skateboard lifestyle.”