Do you Newschool? If you are over 25, you probably don’t. Newschool is a
youth movement. It’s about music, festivals, and action sports. It’s about
the fusion of snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding, bike stunt riding,
motocross, and surfing. It doesn’t matter if you’re mountaintop at Vail or
tabletop in Vegas. You hardly need snow. All you need is a rail or a
table. Many youth between the ages of 12 to 16 either newschool or aspire
“A lot of trends are being shared,” says Jason Levinthal of Line, a New
School pioneering ski company. “There’s crossover to motocross, BMX,
skateboard, surfing. A skateboarder, a skier, a snowboarder--if they’re
the same age, they dress the same and listen to the same music. Skiing now
has an image that speaks to youth. It’s the type of riding feasible in the
backyard or the street. If you can’t get to Whistler, don’t worry —you can
still do it at home, because there’s a tabletop or rail everywhere.”
Once primarily influenced by the skateboard culture, the new school
movement is undergoing tremendous cross-pollination. After years of
looking like a traditional elite sport—something parents did, skiing is
now a key driver of the movement, according to SnowSports Industries
America (SIA), the national, non-profit trade association that represents
snow sports manufacturers.
Thanks to the invention of twin tip ski technology—shorter wider skis with
more sidecut and tips at both ends, young skiers are not just ogling their
fellow snowboarders on the half-pipe and terrain park. They’re outriding
The best illustration are the competitions—or comps. The Winter X Games
and the US Open are the pinnacle events. Originally a “snowboard only”
discipline, the progression of the Ski Superpipe (a super-sized halfpipe)
over the past three years has been tremendous; at the last Winter X Games,
skiers catapulted to another level with “airs” (tricks riders do when
leaving the snow) that surpassed the snowboard competitors.
“The newschool culture—nobody can fake it,” says Hal Thomson of Salomon.
“You are newschool or you’re not. You can’t buy your way into it.”
Winter Sports manufacturers and suppliers are paying close attention to
this youth culture. “We’re seeing the youth market as a very important
segment. We work with younger kids –or groms (short for grommets) to start
their training at an early age—to become an Orage athlete,” says Amy Carey
of Orage apparel.
“Today’s youth wants to be able do what ever they like to do no matter the
equipment. Slide a rail with a skateboard, or a pair of skis, or a
snowboard,” says Levinthal. Rather than pigeonholing kids into
snowboarders, or skiers, or backcountry skiers, snowsport manufacturers
are focusing on the culture as a whole.
What defines the culture? For skiing and snowboarding, newschool is about
the progression of the park/pipe style into the backcountry and
all-mountain scenes—a hybrid freestyle/freeride approach. Freestyle with
its emphasis on doing tricks in the park and pipe has morphed with
freeriding—which includes cruising, riding in powder and trees on and off
lift-served terrain. Newschool devotees often are found seeking out all
kinds of natural obstacles such as hand rails and stair wells to grind and
rip tricks in urban environments like schools, libraries and town centers
– skiing and snowboarding have left the ski resorts!
As a spectator sport, newschool movies are as key as the “comps.” “The
movies are such a huge part of that demographic,” says Atomic’s Chris
Denny. In the fall of 2003, over 30 companies have launched newschool
films of note, according to the website newschoolers.com, including some
of the leaders such as Matchstick Productions, Teton Gravity Research,
Poorboyz, and even the venerable Warren Miller Entertainment Company.
The gear and clothes kids see the pros wearing in the movies, are the
items they covet. Music, too is key, though harder to pinpoint—there’s a
return to 80’s music—but also hiphop and a wide variety of other styles.
Image is crucial. Brand image, logo use, and clean, generally muted but
sophisticated graphics are key elements of this culture. Not surprisingly
given current events, camo (camouflage) has made a comeback. Styling is
heavily influenced by motocross and skateboarding, with the hardcore going
for the pierced/tattoo look.
What’s “in” is whatever pushes the limits of the sport, the terrain, and
the imagination. Mostly, it is whatever is different from anything done or
worn by the older generation. It’s a youth movement!