Wet and Wild, Mountain Style — A Guide to Pond Skimming

by Dan Giesin | April 10, 2018

It’s as seemingly inevitable as the first robin of spring or the swallows returning to Capistrano: Your local ski hill will punctuate its spring fling — and its winter season — with a pond skim.
To the uninitiated, a pond skim is simply a competition to see who can cross a slushy, sometimes icy, body of water, usually artificial, on a pair of skis or snowboard. Points are awarded on style and, in most cases, costume; spectacular fails only get the appreciative roar of the spectators
No one is entirely sure how this springtime ritual in snow country got its start — some say it evolved out of spring race in the Banff area dating back 90 years; others point to Squaw Valley’s annual completion that began in the 1980s as the oldest continuously held event.
It’s safe to say, though, that whoever came up with the idea guaranteed that anyone can now make a big splash in the ski industry.

The art of pond skimming

Now whether you consider pond skimming a rite of spring or a rite of passage, there are some ways to ensure that you get it done right.
First off, keep your tips up when you enter the water. Unless, of course, you want to go endo and catapult yourself across the pond. And if your gonna make a big splash, make sure you get as many spectators wet as possible.
Second, keep your weight toward the back of your board(s). Pros — and there are some pond skimming pros — say those who have wakeboard or waterski experience do well in these competitions.
Third, keep up your speed and straight-line it. It’s simple physics: The faster you enter the water, the farther you’ll go. To ensure that you get the best speed, give your board(s) a layer of temperature appropriate wax.
Fourth, find the right costume to fit your persona and/or expectations. Don’t be a Superman, for instance, if you can’t clear the pond in a single bound. If you’re unsure about your abilities, a cheesy onesie from the neon ‘80s is always a good choice. Not so good: nudity or sexual innuendos; these are generally frowned on by the organizers.

Best places to make a splash

As mentioned above, just about every ski hill in North America has a pond skim. However, if you want to skim with the best, here are a half-dozen of the top competitions:
Red Bull Slopesoakers at Copper Mountain is a slopestyle event that ends in a pond skim and takes place on April 14.
The 16th World Pond Skimming Championships on April 15 is the high point/culmination of the annual Spring Back to Vail.
The Big Sky Pond Skim, which will be held on April 21, generally has competitors cross two ponds and attracts upwards of 5,000 spectators.
The Springfest Pond Skim at Stevens Pass on April 22 includes a dummy downhill and a chuck-a-duck competition.
The Cushing Crossing, which some consider the originator of Stateside pond skims, will be contested for the 28th time at Squaw Valley on April 28.
The Slush Cup, the true grand-daddy of ‘em all, takes place for the 90th time at Banff’s Sunshine Village on May 21.

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