Back in the olden days there was only one accepted way of sliding down hills at speed and that was on two very long planks of wood to which you had tied a pair of walking boots using bits of string. (Actually prior to that the usual practice involved hypochondriacs tobogganing in Davos, but obviously everyone got bored with that in very short order and invented alpine skiing instead. As you would.)
A bit later on, people got tired of ripping their legs off at the knee every time they fell over, so someone invented the release binding. Unfortunately the bright spark who did this failed to go the extra step and invent the ski brake at the same time, instead opting for tying a ski to each leg. This prevented the ski from scooting off down the hill and getting lost, but did mean that every time you fell over and it came off, it swung round and smacked you in the face, causing mild concussion and extensive bleeding from the resultant head wounds.
In the meantime, we abandoned the frumpy hiking boot thing and went into snazzy plastic boots which didn’t fit properly but came in a range of fancy colours. This made us all feel very spangly and modern and at the same time threw up the brand new profession of boot fitter, a chap whose job it is to sell you ill-fitting footwear before convincing you that any discomfort is entirely your foot’s fault and plying you with a series of insoles, volume reducers and pointlessly expensive socks.
By the time we got to the 80s everyone was getting a bit bored with the basic sliding about on two very long planks concept, so they invented a) monoskiing and b) snowboarding. Monoskiing largely failed to make it out of the other end of the 80s and remains forever associated with embarrassing poodle perms, one-piece fluo suits and gay headbands. Monoskis can now be picked up for a tenner at local vides greniers and used as comedy value presents or ironic window dressing for shops selling upmarket ski clothing.
Snowboarding, on the other hand, managed to acquire itself a bad attitude and a yoof demographic dedicated to annoying know-it-all old farts on two long planks. It thereby became cutting edge trendy and a marketing wanker’s wet dream, incidentally dragging the stuffy old sport of skiing with it. (But before you get too smug about your cool image, dudes, bear in mind that this was still the 80s, you hadn’t discovered the sartorial benefits of wearing a tent instead of clothing, and you too were sporting skintight fluo onesies. Oh yes you were.)
Following a period of guerilla warfare during which skiers harrumphed a lot and boarders laughed at them, someone invented the carving ski, a type of very narrow snowboard which you buy in pairs before attaching one to each foot. At this point most of the skiers shut up because all of a sudden skiing became as much fun as snowboarding. Yoof took up skiing again and everyone went into enormous trousers and started jumping off things. Those old farts who were completely beyond redemption retreated to somewhere in darkest Wimbledon to grumble about short skis and the finer details of who said what to whom at the AGM in 1974. Everyone else meanwile took advantage of the fact that suddenly you could actually get your skis in the car without having to sport a sign saying abnormal load and started driving to the Alps.
Eventually someone decided that despite being really quite short these days, skis were not in fact nearly short enough, and invented the snowblade – a very short ski indeed, unstable at speeds in excess of walking pace and (for added comedy value) not equipped with a release binding. For some reason this prompted people who had never been to a ski resort in their lives before to hurl themselves down the pistes at high speed whilst wearing jeans and a silly hat, before breaking their legs at the bottom.
After about five minutes and a lot of sterling work on the part of Grenoble’s orthopaedic surgeons, bladers decided that this wasn’t such a blinding idea after all, but rather than admitting that the whole thing had been a hideous error of judgement, apologising and buying some proper skis they made the blades a bit fatter, stuck sensible bindings on them, called them skiboards and tried to claim they were cool and exciting. Unfortunately for them, no-one with access to YouTube was deceived for a second.
Foiled once again, the bladers decided to go the other way, made the things a bit longer and call them miniskis in a bid to make them sound fun and popular. So far they have indeed proved popular, though mostly amongst peak season urban chavs and people who can’t ski, which can’t be doing their marketing cred much good. But if nothing else, the blading phenomenon has more or less put an end to old 80s board vs ski arguments as everyone agrees that while they might indeed sit down on the piste a lot/wear alarmingly tight trousers/drop their poles off chairlifts/fiddle with their feet all the time at least they would never EVER stoop as low as snowblading.