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Steamboat Magazine

Skiing Into the Future

12/19/2022 08:00AM ● By Billy Kid
(Photo: Billy Kidd skis the trees at the Steamboat Ski Area, circa 1980.)

Revisiting the Future
In 2012, Billy Kidd’s story, “Skiing Into the Future,” celebrated 50 years at the Steamboat Ski Area and contemplated what the next 50 might bring. Ten years later, as we prepare to celebrate the 60th anniversary at the Steamboat Ski Area, we look back on this story  with fresh eyes, and take a look  at Kidd’s prescient writing. Kidd,  who has skied the world, is an Olympic silver medalist in alpine skiing and has served as Steamboat’s director of skiing since 1970,  making him especially qualified to examine the sport of skiing as a whole. The following is an excerpt from Kidd’s story.

Steamboat Springs, CO -
 Our sport will see many changes in the future, but the basic elements will remain the same: gravity, motion and freedom. Apply them to slippery slopes and you have skiing and riding, no matter where you partake. Apply them to snow-covered mountains and you have heaven on Earth.

Guess what? You don’t necessarily need mountains – or snow.  In the future, any hill will do – even indoor ski areas, like the one in a shopping mall in Dubai. The ski world is expanding – one day we could have a Brazilian Olympic ski champion. Global warming is one of the greatest hurdles that ski areas face in the future. As climate change makes snow coverage dicier 
in some places, plastic, like the material we have on Howelsen Hill’s jumps, will cover more trails. Snowmaking is often too expensive – and you don’t need snow to be a skier. The essence of sliding down the mountain stays the same – and that’s what is critical to our sport: past, present and future.

The best plastic I ever skied on was at a little ski area in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the 1980s. It was like Astroturf, with a layer of little polyethylene beads spread over it, and an intermittent sprinkler system. You could actually carve turns on it, and skiers of all levels were having fun. In the future, I think artificial ski hills will exist everywhere.

This also enables ski areas to be in unconventional places, closer and potentially less cold weather gear-intensive for the sport’s growing number of fans. It will help promote diversity that has already taken root at Mountain High, 80 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, which earned a reputation as “the Ellis Island of ski areas” with roughly half its customers being nonwhite as of five years ago.

 Within 50 years there will be an Olympic ski champion who is an indigenous wounded warrior. In the finish line interview, she will thank Mother Earth, Mother Nature and the Heavenly Spirits. And she will donate her winnings to the Nature Conservancy and Special Olympics athletes throughout the world.

Many years ago I served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. It gave me a chance to bring attention to skiing, both Alpine and Nordic. Whether you ride on two boards or one, you’re helping change the course of health problems like obesity and diabetes. In traditional American sports, the older kids get, the less chance of participation they have.

But skiing is multi-generational, a good way to get exercise. It’s about personal challenge, and with skiing you can choose your own level of adrenaline to rock your world. That’s why the future of skiing looks so good.