Snow's Up! Skiers Take the Plunge as Surfing on Slopes Becomes the Hottest Fad of the Winter

updated 03/16/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/16/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

It looks like some California surfers took a wrong turn at Malibu, but fear not: This is just the newest craze to hit ski slopes from the Rockies to New England. It's called snow boarding, a mix of skiing, surfing and skateboarding (without wheels, of course). The hardy souls who try it simply slip their booted feet into bindings on a fiberglass and wood board about 5-foot long by 11-inches wide—and whoosh, it's down the slopes, full speed ahead. "I want to know I've got more at stake than a bruised bottom," says ex-amateur champ Dave Alden, "and if I don't come through, I'll pay the price."

Some resort managers call such thrills unsafe and have banned snowboards from their trails. "It's a fad," sniffs Sam Douglass of Vermont's Sugar bush Ski Resort. "After awhile you grow out of it." That remains to be seen. The sport became popular about five years ago and already means big bucks to manufacturers like Burton Snowboards in Manchester Center, Vt. President Jake Carpenter estimates he has sold 20,000 so far this year with sales still climbing. The cost per board: $150-$400.

Once a snowboarder takes off, it's flash or crash, with both legs strapped down and no poles for balance. "We call snowboarders 'Death From Above,' " says a director of one California ski resort, "because they fly all over the place at breakneck speed." Yup. That's the idea.

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