Snow Skitching

Note: This page provided for informational purposes only. This is neither instructional nor supportive of this sport. Skitching is a dangerous and illegal activity; do not attempt it. It can be harmful to your health and possibly result in death.

Skitching, or "ski-hitching" is one of those things your mother told you never to do...and with good reason. In its basic form, skitching is as easy as finding a slippery, snow-covered road or parking lot, and a passing car bumper. The skitcher grabs the bumper, flexes his or her knees, and skates through the snow on their heels. The car does the work; the skitcher enjoys the ride.

History

The first form of skitching was undoubtedly derived from ski-joring, which is the sport of skiing while being towed by a horse. While early motorcars were certainly used in place of a horse in some places, it was usually done with use of a rope and skis. The "pure" form of snow skitching -- grabbing a bumper and riding on one's heels -- is believed to have originated in urban areas in northern New York; probably cities like Buffalo with regular snowfall. This is only conjecture based on known stories of the activity; the exact origin will likely never be known.

The pure form of skitching reached its heyday in postwar America; cars were plentiful, winters were relatively snowy, teenagers had plenty of leisure time. Low chrome bumpers of the 1950s and 1960s were easy to grab hold of, and real wheel drive ensured that speeds wouldn't be too excessive on a snow-covered roadway.

Skitching Today

Smooth molded car bumpers, front wheel drive and well-maintained winter roads have made the pure form of skitching an endangered pasttime. (Most parents and police departments are glad about that). Ski-hitching today has gone back to a form closer to ski-joring. It is generally done by snowboarders who are towed by a vehicle with the help of a rope. Even this is rarely seen these days; liberal use of salts and efficient plowing has greatly reduced the the opportunities for ski-hitching. In any case, the speeds of today's front wheel drive and four wheel drive vehicles are much higher than the slip and slide rear wheel drive of the 1950s-1970s, so the risk to life and limb is much greater. Many people still "ski-hitch" with rope tows and snowmobiles, but this is a far cry from the thrill of grabbing the bumper of a passing stranger.

And so sadly, skitching has become predominantly a summer time sport, done with skateboards and bicycles in city streets, alleys and parking lots. When something goes wrong with a high speed tow from an import buzzing along on pavement, it's a far cry from slipping off the bumper of a slow moving '66 Buick into a pile of snow.

Key Links

Denver Post article examines the "sport" of skitching, in light of a Colorado teenager who was killed while skitching on pavement with a skateboard.





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Skitching photo Creative Commons

Masthead photos used by permission:
Ralf Roletschek
Creative Commons
US Army/public domain
Erik Charlton.