Snow skating | Free your feet

Story by Kayla Anderson  ·  

“Free your feet and your soul will follow,” snowskater Mark Spicolli once told a European-based snowskate magazine. These are also the words that Lake Tahoe native Miranda Worrell lives by as she embraces the world of snowskating.

Photo courtesy Jaime White

Worrell had been snowboarding for decades when she felt her ability level had reached a plateau. In the four drought years that Lake Tahoe recently experienced, Worrell started looking for something new to try. She demoed a snowskate at Kirkwood about three years ago and now she’s hooked.

“I rode a snowboard for 20 years, so this was a new challenge. I love crashing and falling in the snow and it’s a lot more comfortable walking around in skate shoes.”

Worrell’s boyfriend, Eric Liebendorfer, also got into snowskating after he suffered a calf injury. While snowboarding agitated his leg, snowskating didn’t. He realized it was way for him to get on the mountain without feeling any pain. It’s common for older skateboarders to transition from snowboarding to snowskating.

Photo courtesy Josh Thornton

“Quite a few people get into it because there’s a lot less stress on your knee injuries,” says Worrell.

So what exactly is snowskating? Although Worrell says that people often mistake snowskates for snowblades and skate skiing, snowskating is a sport that she says is a perfect mix of snowboarding and skateboarding. Think of racing down the hill without your feet attached to a board or skis, which can be a terrifying thought. The toughest part of snowskating is the mental hurdle.

“It doesn’t work going slow, you have to commit to go fast. Once you reach a certain speed, it’s fun,” Worrell says. “But you feel every bump. It turns every blue square into a double black diamond.”

It’s all about pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and putting yourself back at a novice level. It’s a whole different challenge.”

 –Miranda Worrell

Worrell soon got turned on to Ralston Snowskates and keeps a quiver of boards for various snow conditions. The main three snowskates on the market include:

Bideck, which is like a skateboard with trucks attached to a ski sled-type base. This type of skate is ideal for downhill because of its edging capabilities.

Single deck, which is basically a skateboard without wheels, but grooves etched in the bottom. This type of skate is ideal for jibbing, but not for downhill due to its lack of metal edges.

Powderskate, which is the skate for the back country because its longer surface area helps keep you afloat.

With whatever deck you try out, Worrell says, “You just get on, cross your fingers and go.”

Although there aren’t many people snowskating on Lake Tahoe’s slopes yet — Worrell says snowskaters call themselves the one percent — there are a few local ski resorts that host snowskate-specific contests.

Worrell regularly competes in Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Ralston Snowskate Cup, Rally for Rocker and Kirkwood’s Legendary Banked Slalom. She has participated in Minus 7 Snowskates event at Donner Ski Ranch. She adds that she started out snowskating in more slopestyle-type competitions but now a lot of them are becoming jam sessions.

“Everyone is really positive. You’ll see lots of high fives and hell yeahs when someone stomps something,” she says.

So it has the potential to catch on. According to Worrell, most ski resorts allow snowskaters and operators don’t look twice when one approaches a chairlift.

“Most everyone’s on board but some new lifties are kind of taken aback when they see us walk onto the chairlift,” says Worrell. “People are still confused about their ski resort’s policy and they don’t know the difference between snowblades, snowskates and skate skiing. Some people think what we do is awesome while others hate on us. It’s all about pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and putting yourself back at a novice level. It’s a whole different challenge.”

Worrell is an advocate and wants everyone to try the sport.

“The cool thing about it is you can toss it and bail when things are going bad,” she says. “I crash a ton more on a snowskate but the consequences are less severe. I never got bored of snowboarding, I just think it’s fun to supplement it with snowskating.

“It’s very free-feeling. You can do anything if you believe you can stay on it,” she says. “But I do want to exercise caution when trying snowskating because you may never want to get into bindings again.”