California Grass

Grassholes: Grass Skiing’s Trail of Dust

In 1984, Warren Miller recruited Brian McKay and two friends to shoot a California segment for his upcoming film, Ski Country. During their two-minute part, the trio displayed all the hallmarks of a mid-1980s Warren Miller film: tight pants, spread eagles and synthesizer riffs, all set to Miller’s wry narration.

The background, however, wasn’t snowy mountains. It was the Golden Gate Bridge, and McKay and his buddies were shredding grass in the heat of a San Francisco summer. They ripped through forests, threw daffies off cliffs, and bashed gates, throwing up dust and chunks of sod in place of powder clouds.

For the casual viewer, it seems more novelty than anything serious. But even then, grass skiing was a legitimate FIS-recognized discipline, like moguls or slalom racing. While the 1984 segment marked the height of grass skiing in the United States, the strange sub-sport retains a healthy following in Western Europe. Grass skiing’s terrain and weather requirements being substantially less than its winter counterpart, it’s even found a home in countries such as Japan and Iran (which won the 2015 Grass Ski World Cup as a team), where year-round glaciers are absent, but soft, verdant slopes plentiful. With an international fan base and multiple companies building and improving grass-skiing equipment every year, it’s established a thriving—if slightly peculiar—following… 

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