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  • New Short-Shaped Skis Make Things Easy

    by Mitch Kaplan

    Photo courtesy OkemoLittle skis keep invading our lives. We first tried them at Mountain Creek in New Jersey two seasons back, and they reappeared three times during last season - once at Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts, and twice more at Okemo in Vermont. We're not talking about "snowblades," now, which are like in-line skates for the snow. No, these are real skis. Very short real skis. Elan makes them. Rossignol does, too. They range from about 113 centimeters to 133 or so. But, they ski like the big boys.

    Why short skis? Because they make learning a heck of a lot easier. You can turn them, get them onto their edge and control them much more easily, and the minute you get your weight off-center - boom - you know it. And, even though they're dwarfish, you can ski them anywhere - they hold great on ice, carve fine turns on the groomed and they're a riot in the bumps.

    We had the most fun with them at Okemo, where the ski school starts never-evers on them. We rode them first in December. Typical early season conditions. Hard-packed, patches of ice. We zipped around on these little guys and had a ball. Handling the ice was a breeze. Because we could get up onto the edges so easily, they sliced the ice like fine knives slice tender meat. Even the kids - who first looked at these miniatures like they were social poison (totally uncool) - got into it. A lot of giggling, and then some whooping was actually heard.

    Then it began to snow. Hard. We soon found ourselves in fresh powder with a very firm underfooting. No problem with these shorties. To add to the fun, we got rid of our poles. The older kids at protested this. Too much like when they were five and first learning. But, skiing without poles, suddenly gave us a whole new sense of balance. And then a new sense of freedom. Soon the whole crew was heading into the terrain park. Builds confidence, too.

    Photo courtesy OkemoWe - Dad and daughter - came back to Okemo in March, expressly to ski the minis in the bumps. After a quick cruising warm-up, we followed instructor Rick Weiss into a mogul field. The kid did fine - took her time. But, Dad rushed in. Just a few turns and - boom - the little skis raced out from under him. Butt-plant! Lesson learned the hard way, as Rick pointed out. That butt-plant illustrated the very reason to use the minis to master the bumps. The skis offer no front or rear support. They demand that you stay centered. Get out of center, and you know it right away - they shoot ahead or you face plant. But, stay balanced and there's so little ski that you don't have to worry about executing turns, just absorbing and extending.

    It took a few runs, but soon we were wiggling our way down Okemo's bump runs, having a ball. The minis make it so easy to feel when you're on-center, and that's why they can be used as a learning tool for never-evers, and for bump-fools. Check 'em out next time you're skiing Okemo - or one of the other eastern Mountains of Distinction. You can find them in the rental shop. Then look for Rick or one of his instructing compatriots. They'll show you how to take these little babies through the terrain park, into the mogul fields or flying down the cruisers.

    For info on Okemo see their KidzResort review here .

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