The Future of Skiing: Mike Douglas

The “Godfather” of freeskiing

Apr 15, 2013
Outside Magazine
mike douglas freeskiing godfather salomon

   Photo: Courtesy of Salomon

Climate change. That’s going to change the face of this sport more than anything else. It’s frightening—the pace that we’re starting to see temperature rise. The traditional winter experience we all grew up with will be inscreasingly rare.

There will still be snowy places, but more often than not, skiing will be an artificial experience. Like what they’re developing in China, Dubai and the UK. Indoor areas will sadly become more normal. I wanna be optimistic about a snowy future, but I follow Bill McKibben on Twitter.

Beyond that, we’re starting to lose a lot of the mom and pop ski areas. Economically they don’t work that well anymore. Even big resorts like Whistler don’t like to see that happen. It’s where people learn to ski. Losing those types or relatively inexpensive experiences is not good. Passion and community is what drives people to skiing. Small resorts are where those things thrive.

Right now we’re seeing a move toward the backcountry. People want to get out and explore like never before. And I think part of that enjoyment is earning it.

In 25 years, the super rich are going to be skiing in the most remote and absurd places on earth. The average skier I'm less sure about. I think creativity is going to be the front edge of ski media rather than extreme action sports. We’re getting close to the limit of what people can physically do. Injuries in top athletes are more frequent and severe. Realistically a human body can only take so many flips off the ground.

The shift we’re starting to see is creativity. I feel like the front end of skiing is being increasingly driven by snowmakers as much as athletes and people willing to put a spin on the sport. It’s not going to be ski equipment but medical technology that changes how we ski, like stem cells that can finally grow you a new knees, grow you a new disc in your back. If that happens, the crazy bar will get raised again.

A while ago I got bored of Ski Porn. Telling stories with ski movies rather than just showing action is much more motivating for me. The beauty of filmmaking is that incredible work still stands no matter how long ago it was made. Good movie making is good movie making.

Twenty-five years from now, I have a feeling that we will have explored the earth top to bottom. That leaves our own minds as the last frontier.

Mike Douglas is the “Godfather” of freeskiing, and the Director/Producer/Editor of Switchback Entertainment.