Mountainboarding - Any Hill Will Do
StatesmanSome of you live only for winter and it is still
a month or so away. You hang last year's snowboard pass in a prominent place
inside your refrigerator and get a little misty-eyed every time you open the
By the end of March, you had managed to grab
yourself some big air, and you'd figured out how to dismount the chairlift
without scaring the small child ahead of you. So how were you rewarded for
these impressive feats? With seven months of heavy-duty withdrawal.
But another new thrill sport is gaining
popularity and begging for your bodily participation. Best of all, this one is
Mountainboarding is the next best thing to
snowboardingand to skateboarding and surfing and mountain biking. You
don't need to worry about the weather when you mountainboard, and you don't
have to buy a lift ticket in order to grab your fair share of adrenaline.
"I've never gone so fast while going slow,"
said Trevor Brown, manager of Cutting Edge Sports in Tahoe City, Calif., which
sells mountainboards. "One of the great things about mountainboarding is that
the sensation of major acceleration can come at a surprisingly low rate of
speed." You can ride a mountainboard on asphalt, grass or dirt. The boards
themselves are about 4 feet long, weigh between 20 and 30 pounds and come in
both all-terrain and specialty styles. Available tire configurations range from
racing slicks to mondo monsters. And some boards have brakes and
Like snowboards, mountainboards have
bindings that wed feet to board. But unlike the winter version, you can slip
out of these much more easily.
For shoes, any skate shoe or light hiking
boot will do, Brown said.
Safety gear is considered by one and all to
be part of the basic mountainboard package. First and foremost think helmet.
After that, count on buying elbow and knee-pads and heavy gloves. Long sleeves
and long pants are also a good idea. Road burns are never fun.
For the neophyte mountainboarder, the
initial object of the sport may be merely to stay attached to the board while
maintaining an upright positionnever mind actually going anywhere. For
the more advanced, mountainboarding can include such pleasures as bombing down
And then there are the trickmeisters, the
reigning kings and queens of the sport who go out there and make dirt-magic.
"Ross Baker kicks butt," Brown said,
describing Reno's 11-year- old world champion mountainboarder.
If you put Baker on a board, any board, it
seems like there is nothing he can't do. Flips, grabs, 360s and just plain
flyingit's all kid stuff to him.
Baker has picked up so many championships in
the three years since he first got into mountainboarding that his parents are
probably the only people who can remember the names of every competition he's
Therefore, when Baker offers advice to
beginning mountainboarders, he's definitely worth listening to.
"If it were me just starting out, I'd
practice in my front yard first," he said. "Then I'd find a little cement hill
somewhere that's going to run out flat, and practice making big turns and then
just keep shortening them up. I 'd also make sure I learned the power-slide,
which is a stop." Veteran riders like Ross get as excited about rocks as
snowboarders do about moguls.
If you want to see what mountainboarding
looks like before you shell out for a board, most shops that sell boards also
have instructional videos. And stores like Cutting Edge or Shoreline Ski and
Sport in Stateline will be more than happy to informally get you going in this
"If you haven't tried a board sport before,
you might want to start mountainboarding with one of the models that offers a
handbrake," said Corbett Robertson, manager of Shoreline Ski and Sport. "We
rent mountainboards by the hour and the day, and the rentals include all the
safety gear. And we also do some instructing before we let you out on your
Nancy Ng, 31, of South Lake Tahoe got into
the sport a couple of years ago as something to do until snowboard season
rolled around again. In addition to being a design architect, she is also a
"I tried mountainboarding and just fell in
love," she said. "The scariest thing about it, I guess, is going too fast and
falling too hard.
"Some of the great things about it are being
outdoors, going sideways down a hill, and being able to do it whenever you
want. And, to a limited degree, you can board anywhere there's dirt."
Where do the mountainboarders go to
mountainboard? In the best of all possible worlds that would be a long,
downhill slope that is neither too flat nor too steep.
Best to check first with one of the board
shops before you head out.
Mountainboarders' favorite hangouts can be
as tricky to find as weekend raves.
"Generally you might find mountainboards in
places like fire roads," Robertson said. "They don't poach the wilderness to
ride their boards. The boards are pretty heavy and you're not going to find
many people carrying them very far."
"Of course a buffed-out grass course would
be awesome, too," Brown said.
Places such as Northstar-at-Tahoe allow
mountainboarding during the summer. One can buy an all-day lift-ticket and ride
down the mountain biking trails. But be forewarned, there are a lot of big
rocks out there.
If you are considering city riding,
mountainboards aren't street-legal in most metropolitan areas. It never hurts
to check with the local police or sheriff's department before you launch
yourself into traffic.
You can get into mountainboarding for a
relatively reasonable cost. A new board, including bindings, can go for as
little as $150, Brown said. And don't forget to tack on another $100 for safety
The experts say there is a fast learning
curve in mountainboarding. But it also helps a lot if you are naturally
And if you hope to become the next Ross
"My father climbed Mount McKinley and skied
down," Baker said. "So I figure that this mountain stuff is kind of in the
blood for me."