'We brought music to the mountains'. Ballet skiing blurred the line between art and competitive sport.

Recently, the official Olympics YouTube account posted a video both beautiful and strange. Skiers in flamboyant jumpsuits perform choreographed routines to music - flipping over their poles, gliding through complex spins, accenting transitions with jazy flourishes of their arms.

''HOW was this an Olympic sport?'' the video title wonders.

The footage is from the 1992 olympic finals in ballet skiing, also called ski ballet, or simply ''ballet'' by some practitioners. On social media, it's easy to get lost in videos of this bygone athletic art.

Clips from the Olympic appearances as a demonstration sport - at Calgary, Alberta, in 1988 and Albertville, France, in 1992 - surface frequently on YouTube and TikTok, to the fascination of dance and sports enthusiasts.

TODAY, ballet skiing lives almost exclusively online. By the time the sport appeared in the Olympics, after nearly two decades of competitive evolution, it has already begun to decline : 1992 was its final Olympic showing. Less than a decade later, it had all but vanished.

Ballet skiing's internet renaissance has granted it a new half-life - enough to enthral, and puzzle, another generation of fans. But the viral clips tell an incomplete story.

In its early years, ballet skiing existed right on the edge of athletic and artistic innovation. An outlet for the rebels and romantics of the ski world, it gave rise not just to star athletes, but also to artists eager to explore the boundary between dance and sport.

''We brought music to the mountains,'' said Genia Fuller, 67, a ballet skiing champion of the 1970s. ''To be able to put on a show in that setting, and to get people to feel what you're feeling through the music and the movement - well, dancers know, it's an amazing feeling.''

People have been doing tricks on skis since skiing was invented, but competitive ballet skiing began as part of a larger skiing revolution, rooted in the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s.

''Skiing had its own youth movement,'' said Bob Howard, 67, a three-time world champion in ballet skiing. Young athletes began questioning the restrictions of traditional alpine racing - the idea that skiers should go left, right, down and nowhere else.

What about skiing backward? What about jumping, spinning or launching yourself off the snow humps created by other skiers?

''It was going against the grain of whatever was typical or normal, or literally show their parents were skiing,'' said Leslie Anthony, author of ''White Planet : A Mad Dash Through modern Global Ski Culture.''

''People were inventing their own ski reality.''

Doug Pfeiffer, at the time the editor of Skiing magazine, was an early supporter of these innovations.

In the early 1970s, he put together some of the first organized events for unorthodox skiing styles, and later he was instrumental in securing television coverage for what would come to be called freestyle skiing.

The Publishing continues into the future. The World Students Society thanks author Margaret Fuhrer.


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