i am calling mine ‘alpine style’ skating, which i think has a cooler ring to it than ‘self-supported solo long distance skateboarding’. i figure if we accept ‘skogging’, instead of ‘pushing with both legs’, then i’ll be bold and go with ‘alpine style.’
how is this any different from long distance longboarding? it isn’t, really, but i dont connect so much with the term ‘longboarding’. i call it skating, because back in the day it was all just called skating, no matter what style. long distance? what i do is long distance, sure, but not necessarily long long like some skaters skate, and my current goals are more experience, environment, and high altitude existence rather than epic kilometer counts or A to B runs.
alpine style also refers to mountaineering, lightweight self-supported mountain traverse, as opposed to expedition style with a team, porters, laying depots and preparing camps for an eventual attempt at a summit. the independence, rapid ascents and descents and transient nature of alpine style mountaineering are near to what i do. alpine skating isn’t as hardcore life-survival and extreme achievement as alpine mountaineering can be, but its about as hardcore as i can take skating, and i am stoked!
alpine style is basically the search for mountains, ranges and high altitude places to skate and camp, and to seek out what adventures, people and cultural exchanges await there. it includes a lot of pushing, with both legs. it involves a lot of downhill, but the objective isn’t always speed, more commonly a safe descent. there’s not much sliding involved, and the only trick is to slow down just enough. its different from downhill in that i don’t get to inspect a hill before i’m charging down it. every stretch and turn represents a new constellation of slope, surface, angle and possible obstructions, which makes the skating spontaneous, sketchy and sometimes down-right death-defying.
other considerations are camping and bear safety, extensive research and route planning, gathering of information on terrain, weather, water, roads and socio-political conditions. cyclists and bird watchers have been a great help, indirectly through their online posts. the weight training i do for this might seem a bit gung-ho, but i am also older and i tend to prepare mind and body in more detail now than when i would just head out blindly in my 20’s and 30’s – in the U.S., in mexico, turkey, north and west africa, india and china – i’ve been around the block on mountain bike, hitchhiking and backpacking. To be honest, skating like this is much more physicaly, mentally and emotionally demanding, and the extra preparation pays off.
alpine style skating also includes a fair bit of hiking, between stretches of blacktop, over mountain footpaths to shorten or extend a route, and off the road in search of camp spots, water sources and extraordinary vistas.
the gear i use is ultralight, as most long distance skaters have figured out, a heavy pack doesn’t help us get very far. i carry 10 to 12kg of gear, plus food and water, and with 15kg i can survive for some days, depending on water. extra gear necessary for this is really just the water filter, and on extremely remote treks, perhaps cooking and fire utensils.
the footwear i choose tends more towards hiking boots than skate shoes, the chunky soles of half-boots keep longer with some footbraking, and offer more grip on variable road surfaces and when hiking. thicker soles also determine a more physical riding style, there is not such sensitive communication with the board as with flatsoled skate shoes. plus with the heavy pack, turning is more a full body movement flow, from the hips and shoulders, not an ankle twitch or a slight weight displacement one way or another.
culture plays an important part in this for me as well, though it might not be a fundamental of the alpine style. to me, high altitudes, rugged mountains and extreme environments seem to collect, or produce, particularly deep, thoughtful, open and diverse communities of people, both indigenous folk and interlopers. the interaction with these people is fundamental to the experience of the mountains, and is perhaps the most important element of survival, communicating with and integrating somewhat into the local.
so alpine style skating, it’s what i aspire to, what i am learning to do, and what i am preparing for again in september