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Storming the Hill: A new trend, the passing of an old friend and more bikes in Bend 

Attempting to bring a velodrome track to Bend.

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Snowskate? What the hell is "snowskate?" It's just like it sounds - one uses a skateboard-esque deck to surf the snow, man.

Garfield Wright, winner of the 2010 Giant Slalom Snowskate Olympics held in Port Angeles, Wash., took some time out from Saturday's rail jam at Hoodoo Snow Area to explain to me the sport and the required equipment. Apparently there are two major types of snowskates: single decks, which have a wide skateboard-like deck with a P-tex and grooved bottom, and bideck boards, which is similar but has a longer ski below the board.

"I think it's the funnest thing in the world," said Wright, who rides for the Redmond, Wash.-based snow cone company, Cakeatr, which also sponsored the event.

Wright says outsiders' perception of snowskating is analagous to how snowboarding was viewed in the early 1990s - as a rag-tag bunch of hooligans attempting dangerous maneuvers on unfamiliar equipment. In reality, snowskating is safer than snowboarding, says the Portland resident who notes that your ability to remain on the binding-less board is the limiting factor.

Want to hit that 50-foot table-top? Unlike a snowboarder who points the board and goes, a snowskater must ride to the feature and hit it with enough speed, all without falling off the board.

Wright, who broke his hand snowboarding in 2010, says snowskating is easier on the body, too, thanks to the reduced speeds and lack of bindings that can pull against your joints in a fall. The 30-year-old chef originally threw himself into the sport because he wasn't able to operate his snowboard bindings with the cast on his hand. Despite a 19-year-long relationship with snowboarding, Wright hasn't buckled into a binding since his first snowskate trip to Timberline Resort, which like Hoodoo, is one of only a handful of resorts that allow snowskating.

By far the most accomplished rider at Saturday's rail jam - which, due to inclement weather across the state and lack of participants was more of a demo - Wright would, time and again, air over the small kicker at the top of the park, grind the 20-foot-long rail and ride the quarter pipe at the bottom of the short run. A real champion of the sport, the 2010 GS champ hopes to build on last year's success at this season's Snowskate Olympics.

"You're either first or last, like Ricky Bobby said," Wright offered with a smile.

Hoodoo is hosting another snowskate event the first week of March.

Sarah Burke, Canadian freeskier and superpipe pioneer,
dies at age 29

The ski industry lost a valuable ambassador and a hell of a good skier last week. Sarah Burke, multiple Winter X Games gold medalist and 2005 FIS Freestyle halfpipe world champion, died on January 19 after falling during a routine training run on a superpipe in Park City, Utah. The impact to her head caused her to go into cardiac arrest. She was wearing a helmet at the time of her fall.

Of course, an accident of this severity will prompt safety advocates across the world to reassess the mechanisms in place meant to protect athletes - as they should. Those on the scene at the time of Burke's fatal fall, as well as many orthopedic doctors and other specialists, however, agree that Burke's injury was a something of an anomaly and the result of the risk that all athletes accept when they push for greater speeds and more airtime.

Peter Judge, the CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, called Burke's accident a "fluke more than anything else." It is widely believed that no equipment or protection would have saved the young skier.

Burke was a role model in the action sports community and, more specifically, for female athletes. She was the first woman to land a 1080-degree rotation in competition and the Ontario native and long-time superpipe advocate successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee to add the event to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The freethinker exhibited beauty on and off the slopes and will be missed.

Bend Velodrome Project Party and Fundraiser

Because we're Bend and we love all things bicycle related, it seems natural that there's a group in town pushing for the construction of a velodrome, a banked bicycle racetrack. And Thursday at 6 p.m. the grassroots group that calls itself Bend Velodrome Project, is throwing a fundraising party at GoodLife Brewing Co.

Currently in the early stages of planning and plotting, BVP is using the proceeds from the party to file for federal nonprofit status, which will make your future donations to the organization tax-deductible. Source contributor Michelle Bazemore, one of five BVP board members, promises that the party will be worth your time. A $5 donation gets you a frosty pint, an opportunity to win big-ticket items in a raffle and a chance to challenge a buddy to a simulated 500-meter race on the VeloSprint set-up.

Bazemore says the structure would likely be an outdoor track and, ideally, it would be built near The Deschutes Brewery and The Les Schwab Amphitheater, where the popular national cyclocross races have been staged.

Velodrome cyclists ride fixed-gear bikes on large oval tracks with steeply banked turns. And it's not as fringe as you think - track racing is an Olympic sport and provides an opportunity for cycling enthusiasts of all ages to practice and compete with one another, without competing with vehicular traffic. As it stands today, Portland's Alpenrose Velodrome is the closest track to Central Oregon.


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