Sarah Goodyear is a Brooklyn-based contributing writer to CityLab. She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog.
A group of hardcore Finnish free-ski stylists are making amazing videos amid the urban landscapes of Northern and Eastern Europe.
The concrete and steel scaffolding of cities has long provided a playground for skateboarders, parkourists, and stunt cyclists. But for skiers? Really?
Yes, really. The hardcore Finnish free-ski stylists of the group Nipwitz have stormed the urban landscapes of Northern and Eastern Europe and made them into an insane and fabulous laboratory for their particular brand of renegade sport.
Their most recent video shows a trip that they made to Russia’s Murmansk Oblast, a bizarre and contradictory universe of pristine mountains and industrial wasteland beyond the Arctic Circle.
“One of the first things we noticed here,” says one of the group in idiosyncratic English, “was the surreal contrast between the beautiful Arctic nature and the rottening cityscapes that have suffered from decades of neglection.” Some areas are so polluted that trees can no longer grow there.
In the remote city of Kandalaksha, the Nipwitz crew soars through windows of abandoned buildings, turns high concrete walls into half-pipes, slides down snow-packed staircases, survives an encounter with a knife-wielding man in an army uniform, and gives bored local teenagers something to talk about for many years to come.
In early 2012, these amazing athletes (some of whom are training for the 2014 Olympics) made a trip to a snowed-in Sarajevo, skiing through a city whose buildings still bear the scars of the civil war, and whose parks became graveyards. They used Sarajevo’s funicular as a lift and skied down through the apartment buildings, making the city look like a mountain. Making it all look easy.
You can find more Nipwitz videos here, but be forewarned: You may not be able to stop watching.