The innovator: NU grad helps concoct ‘Jibskate’ ski
TRUCKEE – Tor Brown remembers those days when, as a youth in Nevada City, he had so much fun with cross country skiing and how at least part of that fun involved attempting tricks on skis.
Today, such freestyle skiing is known as Nordic Jibbing, and a growing number of kids have fun by trekking to all-terrain parks such as the ones at Northstar-at-Tahoe, where Brown serves as Nordic director, and at Tahoe Donner. And Brown, a 1994 Nevada Union High School graduate, has put some of those childhood memories to good use in his work developing the Jibskate, a twintip ski now being marketed by Fischer Sports.
The early response has been favorable, too. The ski was rolled out on the American market by Fischer in December and has already received exposure in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times. The Jibskate was also recognized with the best new Nordic hardware award at the recent ISPO International Trade Fair for Sports Equipment in Munich, Germany. The award was described on http://www.ispo.com: “Fischer Jibskate -The first Nordic twintip skis for a new way of cross-country skiing: Jibskating. These skis can be used anywhere – in fun parks or in a self-made Nordic park in the backcountry.”
Brown, who is the Jibskate Project Manager for Fischer, says the recognition has been a nice reward for the time he spent developing the concept.
“It’s been about three years,” he said. “In 2003, I began working with Fischer to get a prototype twintip ski developed and to get it market ready.”
“When I was growing up, I used to go cross country skiing. My friends and I always liked to do tricks, so we’d build jumps and do 360s,” Brown said. “I saw the freestyle movement dominating winter sports on the skiing and snowboard side of it. So knowing that cross country kids were out there doing tricks, it only made sense to offer a product kids could play with.”
Nor are kids the only ones who enjoy skiing in a halfpipe, sliding a rail or doing back flips off a jump.
“The core age group is 8 to 16. But I’m 30 and I still love doing it,” Brown said, flashing a smile.
After graduating from high school, Brown went on to the University of Nevada and raced for the Wolf Pack’s Nordic program. Then, after college, he accepted the position as manager of the Northstar Cross Country Center in 2000.
“I knew I wanted to stay in cross country skiing,” Brown said. “It’s definitely my passion and I was trying hard to stay in the sport and make it into a career. It’s definitely my passion, and fortunately, it’s worked out for me.”
Brown was certainly encouraged by what he saw in Europe.
“While I was in Europe, Fischer announced they would have tryouts in the fall for a Nordic Jibbing team,” Brown said. “And there’s supposed to be a five-country tour that will involve Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Sweden.”
In the meantime, Brown expects to be touring and putting on demonstrations around the U.S. to promote the new sport.
“It was very exciting to come back from Europe and feel their enthusiasm,” Brown said. ” We’ll see where this goes.”
This certainly is a unique twist to cross country skiing’s mellow image – or that of being more of an endurance test.
“We’re trying to add another element that will get the kids involved,” Brown said. “There are already some really strong race programs in place, but in the past, that’s really been the only way to get kids involved with Nordic skiing and to keep them.”
Could there be a place for Nordic Jibbing – and for the Jibskate – at the Winter Olympics in the future?
“I think this would be something of a longshot, but there have been lots of exhibition sports that have been introduced in the past,” Brown said. “There have been attempts to create more Nordic events that are more exciting to watch instead of just seeing a bunch of skiers take off into the woods and then come back in an hour. This would definitely add some viewing excitement to the sport.”
To contact sports editor Dave Price, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4240.
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