When pro skier Josh Loubek lived with a couple of pro snowboarders, he would follow them to the terrain parks which, at the time, were off-limits to skiers. This was in the early '90s when terrain parks were "anti-establishment," and skiers represented the structure that snowboarders were leaving behind. But Loubek wanted to go where his friends went.
"It was like, these are my buddies they're snowboarders, and I'm skiing, and I'm going to go do whatever they're doing, go just as big and do their kind of tricks," he said.
Loubek picked up some ideas from his boarder buddies, and took those ideas even further on skis and has been deemed a "Jib Advisor" by the International Freeskiers Association, sanctioning body for the sport (as well as other freeskiing events). MountainZone.com asked Loubek to help us describe the anti-establishment jib phenomenon. As Loubek points out, it's really not anything new. Jib, he says, incorporates a little bit from snowboarding and a little from the '70s ski style of hot-dogging.
Jib events were borne from the terrain park (or other features that have inspired people to huck, like road gaps). Table tops, quarterpipes, halfpipes and gap jumps are all becoming venues for big air and slopestyle contests. Many events are judged as head-to-head competitions in which the best jump wins. According to Loubek, one thing event organizers might soon start doing is letting the athletes themselves judge some contests because they know who's doing the styliest trick, who had the craziest big air, or who had the coolest recovery.
"That's how we want it to be," Loubek said. "We don't want to have a whole bunch of 50-year-old judges sitting there telling us what we did good, what we did wrong or what we did right. The crowd doesn't want to see that either."
There are more jib and slopestyle competitions this year than ever before, including the Gravity Games, Superfly Slopestyle, Red Bull Huckfest, and the X Games, just to name a few. And these events are getting exposure like never before, mostly due to TV, and audience-friendly venues, and the simple judging format. But according to Loubek, as the sport continues to grow, the object is to keep it fun not structured.
The athletes, he says, don't want it to become an Olympic sport, and want to keep it more of an "expression session."
Loubek, 25, spent his high school years in Seattle, WA, skiing as a weekend warrior at Stevens Pass. He entered a couple of freestyle competitions, saying that he wasn't very good at first, but stuck with it and later competed in upright aerials at Junior Nationals the very first year. After going to Steamboat, the US Ski Team coaches wanted him to come out and train for freestyle. He spent four years training for moguls and aerials, but for Loubek, the rigorous demands of the sport started taking the fun out of it, so he turned pro.
"The team was really hard to make, everything was really expensive to keep doing, so it was kind of taking the fun out of the reason I started skiing," Loubek explained. "So then I turned pro about four years ago and did some pro mogul events and extreme events and slopestyle events anything I could do to just keep having fun, hanging out with other great skiers.... now I'm just trying to do all the events and stay on top of all the moves that are coming out, new tricks, sick skiers and new energy."
Loubek mixes work and play to keep himself out there doing what he loves. He also had cameo appearances in the last three movies by Matchstick Productions, including the most recent, Global Storming, in which he threw a 360 while trading attempts with Shane Szocs over a 40-foot gap jump.
"[Shane] and I were both trying to step it up a little bit," Loubek says. "And so I got all gripped and the cameras were all there, and I wanted to try to spin off it. So I went hauling in and got my hips up and did a big 360 over it."
Loubek likes jib, but he also likes big mountain skiing. He was inspired early on by Greg Stump's movies, featuring legends like Scot Schmidt and Glen Plake.
"I was fully stoked to go ski just to get away from other football-type sports. Plake and those guys were totally getting after it, and I like that. Those guys were definitely an inspiration," he said.
But now, as one of the pro coaches at the summer Camp of Champions at Whistler-Blackcomb, Loubek is inspired by the younger kids. Especially when he gets some of them doing 360s by the end of the week, or something that they never thought they could do.
Loubek says that he and other veteran jib skiers can help younger kids become aware of safety. For example, at the recent 2000 Winter X Games, high winds made the initial Big Air jump site sketchy. Ultimately, the event was postponed one day and the location was moved to a more modest jump. But it wasn't before one of the competitors, Shane Anderson, crashed and broke his back after being swept 30 feet downhill by a gust of wind. According to Loubek, Anderson is going to be okay. But, he says, the veterans in this sport, which is growing more popular with upcoming skiers, can help educate who he calls the young groms about taking safety precautions, thus preserving their fun.
"We've got to call it if that's going to happen," Loubek said. "The young kids are really making the show go and they're doing rad things for the sport, so some of us more experienced veterans can help out with the safety aspects."
Loubek senses the passion that younger jib skiers have, including 18-year-old Candide Thovex, who won the Big Air contests this season at both the Gravity Games and the X Games. So whether these groms are showing up their elders with some new sick jump, or just beginning to learn how to catch air, they continue to fuel Loubek's own fire for this new age of freestyle.
"You can just see it in their eyes," Loubek said. "They're going to go back and tell all their buddies that they pulled off a 360. It's sweet."
Michelle Quigley, MountainZone.com Staff