There’s nothing wrong with snow-riding as fast as possible into the water for fun, but if you think about other sports, there is no other momentum sport that has a tradition quite like pond skimming.
Imagine mountain bikers in high gear pedaling full power into a mud hole to see how far they can go before the inevitable face plant, surfers chattering onto a rocky shoreline to see how far inland they can make it, skateboarders riding onto ice to see how long they can keep it together - and then the sport’s aficionados going on to make a tradition out of it.
Squaw Valley claims the first organized pond skimming event, in 1990, on Lake Cushing, with a Ski Patrol party that included the brilliant idea of trying to ski across the lake. Today, the wild event is known as the Lake Cushing Classic, explained nicely here by a Transworld Snowboard writer, and it's the Tour de France of pond skimming events with life preservers and helmets as mandatory equipment.
Warren Miller popularized the pond skim in the vaudeville sections of his ski films, and the idea caught on. Now many ski resorts hold springtime pond skim parties - and in the process have risen the bar in both silliness and innovation. The double-pond shown in the clip below from last year’s Big Sky event has taken the pond-skim construction to terrain park levels of engineering.
This coming weekend, April 14-15, there’s a Pond Skimming Championship at Heavenly where contestants are judged on success (staying dry) and distance, as well as the more esoteric criteria of style and crowd appeal.
And crowd appeal it certainly has. The unpredictable nature of snowboards and skis moving at high speed on water creates a rodeo-like spectacle. The bull might throw the cowboy immediately, or he may hang on for a bit, but most of the time it all ends with a spectacular wreck.
The magnitude of the stunts reveal that people are taking their pond-skimming efforts to a higher level. Last year at Big Sky, on the kicker between the two pools, jibbers were pulling aerials, sometimes sticking the second pond, other times not...
The floatation of fat skis has changed pond skimming every bit as much as it has changed skiing; maybe for the next generation of the X-Games we’ll see skier- and boarder-cross courses with water sections and wave pools, but for now the fun factor of the pond skim still rules.
Photo by Topher Donahue of the Mt. Everest of pond-skimming potential: CMH Monashees...