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No mountain, no problem: Urban skiing in Minnesota


People such as Sandy Boville, Logan Imlach and Khai Krepela don't need a lift to get to some of their favorite ski spots. There's no hanging at the edge of a double black diamond, looking down at a steep course that twists through the trees. Heck, they don't even need a big hill.

Give them some concrete stairs at a local city school or park, and these three are happy.

The BBC took a look at this urban skiing through the eyes of the three riders in St. Paul, who viewed Central High School as their own mountain – albeit with metallic railings and cement staircases instead of tree trunks and long paths of snow. The trio makes small slopes in order to jump off ledges, grind down rails, or land backwards on a winding flight of stairs.

The BBC produced a video with the three in the Capitol City.

Without gravity pulling them down, the BBC detailed the equipment needs: The St. Paul trio used a bungee cord, but some use mechanized winches to achieve the quick acceleration needed for tricks. By the way, a police officer came by twice. The first one, the BBC said, simply suggested an alternative spot. The second, after the group returned a few days later, watched for 20 minutes before "encouraging the skiers to move on," as the BBC put it.

Which begs the question: Is it legal?

The BBC said enforcement seems stricter in the U.S. than other countries, and the urban skiiers often play a "cat and mouse game" with police (though the experience in St. Paul did not appear so).

The Minneapolis and St. Paul city ordinances do not mention snow skiing, but both have specific rules about defacing park property – which urban skiing could possibly do. But that's about it.

"Skiing was born in the mountains, and it always will be a mountain sport," Boville told the station. "But it's cool to bring it into the streets and just put a different spin on it."

Urban skiing is a branch of freeskiing (think Keri Herman at the Sochi Olympics), and part of what's called the Newschool style, of which there are three types: Urban (skiing with city structures and architecture); Park (a mountain area with obstacles such as rails and boxes built in); and Backcountry (off marked trails).

Outside magazine interviewed the man referred to as the "godfather" of freeskiing back in 2012. Mike Douglas, the publication wrote, helped launch the Newschool style in the mid-1990s. It was a "revolt against new rules" of mogul skiing, which Douglas and others said "stifled the sport’s freedom and creativity."

Douglas then helped develop the twin tip ski, which allows riders to go forward and backwards – allowing for tricks seen in urban skiing, and in some of the Olympic freeski events.

There is not much money in the sport right now, the BBC reported. And the logistics and risk of injury make it somewhat daunting. But Internet users have taken some notice.

One video of urban skiing, produced in Detroit last year and part of the film "Tracing Skylines," has more than 620,000 views on YouTube.

 A clip from the film "All.I.Can." also gained attention. In it, the rider speeds down streets, snakes between pathways, and even jumps through playground swings.

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