Urban Skiing – The Facts


Urban skiing is a fast-growing niche in the extreme sports world that consists of using your skis to grind and slide along ledges, rails, and other constructed arenas in a resort or a resort town area.  British Columbia has the most developed infrastructure when it comes to urban ski areas, but there are more isolated venues all over the Rocky Mountain range throughout North America and in other areas as well.  Whether you are already an experienced skier or a novice who is interested in the idea, it is recommended to educate yourself on the core concepts, the risks involved and the locations that host the activity.  With that in mind, we will now touch on some of these points to outline the urban ski experience.

The Basics

Urban skiing, a form of free skiing, consists of skiing in an artificial environment that includes rails, steps, declines, boxes and table jumps, just to mention a few.  These serve as performance obstacles that challenge the extreme sports junkie to navigate and utilize them in their skiing experience.  Using skis, these free skiers will jump and grind their way through the course, calculating their trajectories in a much more claustrophobic environment than what traditional skiers may be used to on the open course. The popularity of this extreme sport appeals to a wide array of individuals: from small resorts that help thrill-seekers trying for the first time to X-Games events and other professional venues.

The Dangers

Urban skiing is a very dangerous sport, even more so than its traditional counterpart.  Because in most urban ski environments there are far more obstacles and entities than on an undeveloped or traditional ski resort slope, there is a far greater chance of accidentally colliding with one of these obstacles.  The risk is increased when using said obstacles as performance enhancers, such as grinding on a rail using skis.  Recently, a 20-year old named Will Schooler died after suffering from a head injury while grinding a rail in an urban ski area.  Many parks require that you sign a waiver before using the course, which is something that some of the most active extreme sports participants know all too well.


There are a number of urban skiing areas and resorts that are friendly to the concept. The largest concentration of developed urban ski parks is located in British Columbia. This follows the pattern of British Columbia’s excellent skiing areas, such as Whistler. Other ski parks will hold periodic urban ski events throughout the year. For example, there will be an urban ski weekend at Gatlinburg, TN near the end of January. Sometimes the events are not well publicized outside of the local area, so it is best to check around on community forums for extreme sports lovers or for areas that have ski resorts to find leads on the best locations.

If you have endurance, strength and the resolve to try one of the most dangerous, new extreme sports out there, then urban skiing might be just the thing for you.  Do your research, know your venue and always exercise caution when seeking a thrill.

Creative commons photo by Adam Knowles