There was a time when hot-doggers were considered little more than young show-offs. When it first became apparent that individuals were performing the same stunts on slopes all across the country they were called, accurately enough, exhibitionists, which is really what freestyle skiing is all about. While Stein Erickson, an early exhibitionist, was doing aerials 10 years ago, Ruedi Wyrsch and Art Furrer were pioneering trick and stunt ballet. But it was the movie Skiing the Outer Limits in 1968 that is generally credited with inspiring young skiers to go all-out to develop their own flash and style. From this emerged freestyle, ballet, stunts and aerials as we know them today, the only form of skiing to originate in the U.S.
Three years ago Doug Pfeiffer of Skiing magazine, former Olympian Tom Corcoran and Chevrolet got together and started the first freestyle competition for cash and automobile prizes. As freestyle grew, contestants decided they needed organization and representation, and last year they formed the International Freestyle Skiers Association. Thirty top competitors elected five members to the board (John Clendenin, Eddie Ferguson, Corky Fowler, Bill Burks and Bob Theobald), which will sanction competitions, handle the organization and operation of the association and speak on behalf of its 500 members. Several safely rulings already have been issued: only skiers who meet qualifications in one of the Safety Qualifying Trials are eligible to compete; all jumps are to be built by a single crew so that the degrees of the slopes will be standardized; only one flipper run is allowed; and in a run that has more than one jump, only one inverted maneuver is permitted. These sanctions are expected to reduce the chance of injury without sacrificing exuberance or flair.
Hot-doggers have chosen this kind of skiing because "We feel it has freedom of expression and is creative. Every skier can perform in his own style with imagination. Each run is different and every man an individual. It is never boring for us or for the spectator."
A hot-dogger's jargon is as colorful as his dress. Stunts include the Daffy (a midair stroll with the skier still attached to his skis—hopefully), the Wheelie (an exaggerated jet turn), the Moebius Hip (a full twisting front somersault or reverse back somersault) and the Worm-Turn (an almost lying-down spin and recovery—again hopefully).
As to the clothes—"I feel more aggressive in bright colors," says Bob Theobald. "They get the adrenaline going. When I'm doing Moebius flips I wear red pants with contrasting racing stripes so I can see what my legs are doing. The hotter the clothes, the hotter you ski, but it's not just the flashy clothes. I always remember: no guts—no glory." Theobald says hot-doggers can go through two or three pairs of boots per season. "I wear boots with good forward flex qualities. In slalom you need stiff boots but for moguls and bumps a softer boot helps the ankles and knees absorb some of the shock." Theobald and John Clendenin agree that they would like to see even gaudier and showier one-piece suits with lots of stretch across the shoulders and under the arms, perhaps even with contrasting colored lapels and some sort of French cuffs.
Last year a hardy band of women formed their very own World Hot-Dog Ski Association with six much prettier directors (Cindy Scott, Penelope Street, Debby Meade, Pam Buckland, Suzie Chaffee and Pat Whitcomb—two blondes, one redhead, three brunettes). This season they expect to stage three competitions offering purses up to $15,000 each and conclude with a national championship at Bear Valley, Calif. in April that could be worth $40,000 to the overall winner.
How do girl hot-doggers dress? Cindy Scott says, "We are not as flashy as the men—they are the peacocks. We'd rather look fashionable. We want to show that we are attractive and do hot-dogging tricks and ballet as well as the men. We're crowd pleasers. All we need now is our own Bobby Riggs."
JOHN G. ZIMMERMAN