Going downhill fast
GTs rule the hills

Karen McOuat
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 30/98) - Crazy carpets are cool, toboggans are terrific, but nothing beats a GT snow racer on the hills. That seems to be the consensus from sled sellers around the north.

Ronnie Tutanuak describes the triple-skied device as "designed like a Kitty Cat, but without a motor." The racer has a steering column, which gives drivers more control than they have with toboggans or saucers. Despite its popularity, however, no one seems to know what the initials stand for.

"Great Time, probably!" guesses Berna May Kemble. She says there used to be more information on it, when the racer came on the market over 15 years ago.

Salesman Clayton Brown agrees GTs top the market, followed closely by snowboards. Because there is a lack of ski resorts in the north, snowboarding fits into the sledding category, rather than downhill skiing.

"The snowboards here are plastic, not like the ones down south," says Brown. "These are beginner snowboards, for those who just want to try it out."

The plastic sheets known as crazy carpets sell quickly "because they're cheap," says Brown. "They break easily, so people keep buying more."

Brown says inflatable tire tubes are not big sellers, since they deflate quickly, or crack in the cold air.

Another loser is known as the Pindi board, described as "these things you strap to your butt." It is made of material similar to crazy carpets, just large enough for one's backside.

Toboggans are often to be seen bobbing in a snowmobile's wake, but most people prefer to use GTs, says Brown. And the initials don't mean anything, he adds. It may be the manufacturers' way of saying, "It goes fast."

A quirky device in its second season is known as the SeatSki by Speed Fever -- claimed to be skiing, but with the thrill of the luge. Andrew Crane of the Michigan company says it originated in Norway, hundreds of years ago, as a wooden seat perched on a runner.

Tom Crane, father of Andrew, assures the modified ski is very manoeuvrable.

"You could be going 40 miles per hour, and come to a complete controlled stop within ten feet.

"We have videos of a seat skier going through a slalom course alongside a regular skier," he continues, "and the SeatSki beats them every time."

Eerily similar to a GT, it consists of a 150 cm downhill racing ski, with suspension and a padded seat to absorb the shock. A helmet, goggles and mouthpiece are recommended. It can be used on ski slopes as well as regular sliding hills.

With only one ski, perhaps the one question is: Where do you put your feet? The senior Crane says it is not a problem. With the rider already leaning far back, the feet are naturally in the air.

Speed Fever is starting its third season of showcasing the product at various ski hills. These skis have never been commercially marketed, and have no plans to go retail until the year 2000. Nevertheless, SeatSkis have been bought by customers in Australia and Greenland.

Tom Crane says he has never heard of a GT.