Cross-country skiing in the U.S. suffers from the soccer syndromelots of people do it, but nobody watches the pros. The fact that our Olympians have earned just one medal, in 1976, hasn't helped. Enter Andrew Newell, 21, a Turin-bound sprinter from Shaftsbury, Vermont, who's using his skinny skis to pull off terrain-park tricks. In the past three years, Newell has produced two nordic-action flicks, and he consulted with ski manufacturer Fischer during the development of the new Jibskate, a twin-tip nordic ski engineered more for hucks than laps. Is the future of cross-country upway upin the air? Christopher Solomon had to ask.
OUTSIDE: You've called cross-country skiing "the most gnarly, badass sport there is." Are you kidding?
Newell: Maybe that's a little much, but it's painful to be a world-class nordic skier. We push our bodies above and beyond what is even considered healthy. I throw up after probably half my races.
When did you start pulling tricks on skinny skis?
I was into skateboarding and surfing as a kidI still amand looked up to guys like Gerry Lopez, who added a new level of style and individuality to his sport. Plus I just wanted to have fun on skis. So I would go out and build jumps after practice.
Not everyone likes what you're doing.
I've heard of coaches who won't let their skiers hang posters of me because they don't want them to go out and hurt their backs. And some traditionalists don't like things in our moviesscenes of us shooting guns and drinking beer and having a good time. But we're Vermont rednecks at heart. You can't make everyone happy, you know?
Your movies are odd.
We're trying to attract more kids to the sport and bring American cross-country skiing up to a world-class level. We need to show them that we're not just these endurance "nordic dorks" who sit around worrying about their heart rates.
But aren't backflips a distraction for a sprinter?
Tricks helped me get to where I am now with my balance. Cross-country skiing is all about balance.
Anything special up your sleeve for the Olympics?
NoI need to focus on racing. But on European courses there are a lot of little bumps, so sometimes I will throw a 360 during warm-ups. I can't help giving something to the crowd.