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Ski & Snowboard
Article UB1. Skiing and
Snowboarding on a Dry Slope
Article UB2. Skiing in summer? New Technology
Article UB3. History of Urban Artificial Snow Parks
Article UB4 NXS holds the secret to urban ski & boarding
By Sam Morishima
Two weeks before Christmas and I am on a flight to the United Kingdom to try out the skiing and snowboarding at what the British call “dryslope centers”. Hired as a consultant to research for a private party who are interested in building such a center in the USA they wanted my opinion on how well such artificial slopes are for riding and on the feasibility of a business opportunity.
Dryslope skiing has been around since the sixties and is performed on a surface of plastic matting to resemble the ride on snow. Several types of plastics in various configurations have been tried but just recently a new generation of material has been developed that claims to have both the forward slip and the sideways grip of real snow. Dryslopes are a bit of a misconception since a light mist of water is sprayed every six minutes or so onto the material by a sprinkler system incorporated into the layers of the surface material. The water further helps as a gliding agent.
It now has two great safety advantages of not having any openings that catch fingers and thumbs, and has a thick shock absorption layer minimizing the brutal impact of falls experienced by snowboarders and skiers alike. My first day was on the older surface materials with the donut holes in them, and on a nasty fall I had my little finger lodge itself into one of the open spaces and it nearly tore off. My hand still hasn’t fully recovered after 2 weeks now. I was told that each center has about 2 badly sprained or broken fingers or thumbs a day using the old material. I just contributed to that statistic.
England, where there are no major mountains with snow, has a huge population of ski and snowboard starved riders making it an ideal place to incubate the development of dryslope technology. One piece of literature states that there are over 60 such dryslope centers throughout Great Britain. They are all located near dense population centers making skiing and snowboarding at the most only a 2 hours drive away. Many of the Brits practice and train on dryslopes year round and then prior to their ski trips, hit the indoor ski slopes with man-made snow on them before heading off to France, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, and the USA for their ski and snowboard vacations. I went to one of the indoor man-made ski centers at Milton Keynes, which is built within an indoor mall. It was quite the extravagant center holding 200 riders at a time in the contained slope area.
A key reason I was sent was to ride the new dryslope moguls and terrain park, with features such as halfpipes, kickers, tabletops, fun boxes, etc. Previous materials lacked the ability to form such shapes and the new material not only formed stable moguls and terrain shapes but also the ride on them was quite impressive. I met a young man of about 15 named Brian who prior to the European Big Air Snowboard Contest that he won had never been on snow before. He had practiced for over six months on the dryslopes at the center in Halifax, England. Now that’s impressive! What is gaining popularity beside the big air events held at the dryslopes is the boarder-cross event where two to four riders descend the slope taking in jumps, tight turns and narrow tracks in a head to head race.
One key element I found with the dryslope was that you had to be spot on with your carve, otherwise you lose the grip and you would lose edge. The surface material actually makes you a better skier and boarder. The dryslope riders are precise and very balanced. If you weren’t a good skier or boarder when you first hit the dryslopes you are by the end of the day or you would be scraping plastic with face plants and body slides.
For those who want to learn to tame the moguls, the dryslope’s moguls are engineered as perfect moguls and their placement is designed to let the skier flow through them like a falling drop of water. You can’t help getting good on these slopes. The other nice thing is that the surface condition remains the same, allowing you to focus on developing your skills rather than trying to guess the changing snow condition as you do during the day on the mountain.
Overall the dryslopes provide convenience and accessibility to sports that were once restricted to a specific time of year and to geographic terrain and weather conditions. The dryslopes typically open at 10:00 or 11:00 AM and close at 11:00 PM. If there is one thing negative about the dryslope centers it is the cost to ride them. Typically they charge by the hour costing greater than $18 per hour unless you buy a membership. But the convenience of not having to drive far, no need to drive on winter mountain roads or putting on chains to get there, and having it accessible all year makes the cost quite reasonable.
Because of the advancement in surface material in both rideabilty and safety, I predict that such centers will be springing up throughout the USA. Skiing and Snowboarding in the future will no longer be just a winter sport, and if you thought snowboarding brought out urban kids to the mountain, soon you will see skiing and snowboarding in an urban setting. So, look for one in an urban area near you. ww.endlesslope.com
By Sam Morishima
Last season in
Sierra Ski news I wrote about skiing and snowboarding in England at
dryslope centers where you ride on a carpet of plastic bristle tips.
With some 70 or more artificial snow slopes in Great Britain and
none in the USA - that lopsided ratio is about to change. In Folsom California a new company called NorCal Extreme
Sports (NXS), Inc. is distributing a surface material that they call
AstroRide - and it is guaranteed to give you the adrenalin rush of your
is comprised of a proprietary multiple filament fiber cluster made of UV
impregnated highly modified polyethylene. AstroRide provides a soft
feel with incredible support and low friction. This means that you
can glide, edge and turn and stop with control as if you were on real
snow. The smooth bullet tip rounded fibers combined with ultra thick
padding provide for the ultimate in softness and safety while the smooth
consistent surface creates an environment conducive to learn and play that
is even softer and safer than packed snow.
Edmonsom one of the founders of NXS in Folsom says, “in many ways AstroRide technology
has nearly all of the advantages of real snow without any of the disadvantages.
It rides like real snow; you can ski and board on it, you can get big air
and land on it, you can jump and flip on it, you can transition on and off rails
with it - but its not snow. AstroRide
is not dependent on a specific geography or weather system which means you can
use it anywhere. Imagine riding in the flatlands of the Midwest or the
coastal shores of southern California.”
recently had a chance to snowboard on AstroRide and it was sweet.
Edging on the board was easy as I carved a turn that reminded me of being
on a groomed corduroy snow run. I
enjoyed jumping on the AstroRide as it gave a little spring to my jump and
absorption to my landings. I
couldn’t help feeling that I was riding the future landscape of skiing and
There are over 150
installed slopes in the world using AstroRide but not one as of yet in the USA.
NXS would like to change all that, however.
AstroRide is originally produced by Astro Corporation a wholly owned
subsidiary of Mitsubishi Chemicals and is also responsible for AstroTurf, the sports surfaces for baseball, soccer and rugby.
will make skiing and boarding more accessible to the public spawning a whole new
generation of skiers and boarders. This
will never replace snow but it will definitely provide a way for skiers and
boarders to enjoy their sport all year around.
if you are interested in the wave of the future with urban skiing and
snowboarding being as common as skate board parks that are found in nearly every
major city- then NorCal Xtreme Sports may just have the answer.
you on the slopes,” may have a totally new meaning with urban snow parks in
the middle of your home town - in the heat of summer - as you snowboard and
capture air or slide a rail in your street clothes.
For more information check out www.astroride.com
of Urban Artificial Snow Parks
By Sam Morishima
sport of skiing and now snowboarding has been confined to weather,
mountainous regions, snow conditions and the time of year.
To over come these limitations development of materials to
imitate the ride capability of snow were developed to provide year
around and locality convenience. First
regular home carpets were experimented with.
This worked well when used as a treadmill at a sloped angle. These developed into an “Endless Slope”
revolving carpet ski decks that are successful for learning and training
on. These devices were
popular in the 1960’s and 70’s for both teaching and demonstration
and are still used today for teaching, training and conditioning. See www.endlesslope.com
the same time plastics mats were coming into existence and when laid on
a hill or a large stationary ramp allowed for some sliding, feeling more
like sticky grabby snow. The
earlier materials lacked the ability for the skis to edge well so the
skier wasn’t able to carve. Another
problem with the earlier matting was their lack of UV stability
turning the pile strands to harden and crack further reducing what
edging it had to offer. Refining the materials in the late 60’s
overcame some of these drawbacks and in England and in Asia saw the rise
of urban ski areas known as “Dryslopes.”
earlier dryslope resorts allowed skiers to perform on a surface of
plastic matting to resemble the ride on snow.
Several types of plastics in various configurations have been
tried some better than others. Recently a new generation of
material has been developed that have both the forward slip and the
sideways edge grip of real snow.
surface are also layered over a soft material that combines with the
surface pile to give both a springy and absorbing characteristic that
gives a powder like ride and softens the impact of a fall. The skier or
rider can glide on the artificial surface and when edged on allow the
ski or board to carve an arc as if on a groomed run.
Dryslopes are a bit of a misconception since a light mist of
water is sprayed every six minutes or so onto the material by a
sprinkler system incorporated into the layers of the surface material.
The water adds as an excellent gliding agent giving the ride a corduroy
groomed run feel.
The newer material allows for terrain features to be created such as quarter and half
down your big air
moves. Rails and fun boxes
add further fun and enjoyment especially with the pile and the foam
bottom matting that absorbs falls and landing.
urban artificial snow surface parks can be found in the United Kingdom
claiming over 70 such resorts and in Asia approximate 150 with most
located in Japan. Though
there are not any in the United States as of this writing , plans are
now in the works.
Urban snow parks are now possible to be enjoyed by all levels of skiers, boarders and others and the beauty of it is, you can do the sport all year around and if your lucky enough it is only a few blocks away.
By Sam Morishima
It was a
warm, bright October morning as I strolled down the street toward the
Reno Nevada convention center.
My snowboard in one arm and my boots hanging from the other I
appeared as if heading for a lift line.
A passerby laughed as he joking asked if I was going to snowboard
today. I didn’t even look up as I answered him back, “yes I
am.” He then looked at me
quizzically and said, “Where’s the snow?”
I replied back, “I don’t need no snow to snowboard!”
the convention center I approached the NorCal Extreme Sports (NXS) booth
where a small ramp was prepared. The ramp was layered with a synthetic
snow sports surface called AstroRide.
After lacing my boots, I
placed my snowboard on the top of the ramp and buckled in.
With a slight forward jump I sped down the ramp slope.
The board slid smoothly and I gained speed quickly.
Shifting my weight over the toe edge of my board, the edge
grabbed as if on a groomed snow run, and I carved a turn so solid I felt
the “g” forces kick in as I arced a perfect semi-circle turn.
Before I could link another turn I ran out of AstroRide carpet
and ran onto the convention floor rug.
It was a short but sweet ride.
I was amazed at the edge bite I got on this slippery sliding
surface and asked, “what gives?”
Without sounding too commercial this is what they told me.
“The AstroRide surface provides a soft feel with incredible
support and very little friction, that allows a rider or skier fast
gliding. But also allows
controlled edging for turning and stopping as if you were on real
Investigating the AstroRide
surface closely, you find smooth bullet tip rounded fibers, combined
with ultra thick padding that provide a smooth consistent surface to
create an environment like a freshly groomed run.
In fact it may even be softer and safer than packed snow.
John Edmonson, a founder of
NXS the distributor of AstroRide, told me, “In many ways AstroRide technology has nearly all of the advantages of
real snow without any of the disadvantages.”
rides like real snow. You
can ski and board on it, you can get big air and land on it, you can
jump and flip on it, you can transition on and off rails with it but its
is not dependent on a specific geography or weather system, which means
you, can use it anywhere from the flatlands of the Midwest to the
coastal shores of southern California.”
provides a consistent smooth surface ideal for learning new skills and
goes on to state that, “AstroRide is
the most realistic alternative snow sports surface available anywhere
and the pliable material easily molds to custom shapes like jumps,
moguls, half pipes, quarter pipes and rails enabling extreme terrain
parks limited only by the imagination.”
So how cool is that?
Now I can ski and snowboard anytime of the year and almost
anywhere (as long as there is an AstroRide park) as if I was on a snow
covered winter mountain.
The history of AstroRide goes back to the legacy of the AstroTurf sports surface used for Baseball, Soccer, Rugby, and many others. The AstroRide material is manufactured exclusively in Japan and I found out that there are over 150 such Astroride urban ski and snowboard parks throughout Japan and worldwide, with the oldest existing over 12 years. In fact, AstroRide was used as the surface on the ski jumps at the Nagano Winter