Eugene Buchanan: Ode to Daffy |

Eugene Buchanan: Ode to Daffy

One from the archives — magazines editor Eugene Buchanan does a daffy.
Courtesy Photo

One from the archives — magazines editor Eugene Buchanan does a daffy.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in a 2008 issue of Skiing magazine.

It was at an aerials competition here in good ol’ Steamboat Springs in 1976 that my oldest brother, David, went for a quad daffy, crossed his skis on number three and woke up in the hospital. Later, we’d know this variation as the “Screamin’ Seaman,” but it’s a mistake you unintentionally make only once.

So why is the daffy — that glorious, crotch-ripping badge of courage involving one or more midair splits — tainted with dorkdom?

Pop a daffy under the lift today, and you’re considered either a hipster or a loser. It’s a shame because the daffy is one of skiing’s marquee stunts — one that, unlike a cork 540, still is within the grasp of The Everyman Skier.

Its place in the annals of aerials is hallowed, with cameos in everything from “Hot Dog … the Movie” to “Hot Tub Time Machine” and Warren Miller reels. Credit this to its difficulty compared with its more mundane cousins of yesteryear, the twister and spread eagle.

The daffy was how you earned your true stripes on the slopes. It takes guts — and big air — to mock gravity with your tips and tails like that and then get them back underfoot in time to touch down.

Lose it on a twister? Who cares? So you land a little sideways. But screwing up a daffy means exposing your family jewels to the mountain’s whim. Of all upright aerials, the daffy places you in the worst crash position imaginable, which is both its bane and its beauty.

“It was definitely the marquee move of its day,” former freestyle competitor, coach and longtime local Park Smalley says. “The spread eagle was the easiest, and the daffy came next … but there was always the fear factor of catching that tip.”

In typical one-upsmanship, people couldn’t get enough of a good thing and soon began linking the signature move. Smalley adds aerialist Chris “Fuzz” Feddersen once linked five of them together, each one extending past the 180-degree, groin-pulling split mark.

“Fuzz had the best daffies of anyone,” says local Olympian Nelson Carmichael, who won the bronze in the bumps at the 1992 Winter Games and used to sport a mean daffy himself. “Daffies were iconic because the good ones looked great from any angle. They felt great, too, seeing how far you could stretch, using your skis’ momentum to swing your feet.”

As for my own brush with the leg stretching and tip-catching, mine came on a simple double-daffy attempt on the back side of Lake Eldora. One stride, two strides, a cross and a bone-rattling crunch. It psyched me out for years, relegating me to lamer splitsters — a weak alternative with the splits off to the side — for the duration of my daffy career.

And you also could catch your tips on other things. Smalley remembers a Tequila Cup event in the ’70s when he hit a jump, threw a daffy and accidentally soared in his splits over the perimeter fence and out of the course.

“It got high points,” he says.

Do it right, however, and it’s pure Picasso. Nowhere is this illustrated better than on a black-and-white poster hanging in my mom’s living room in Boulder, showing my other brother, Stephen, throwing a heroic daffy off a homemade kicker in Chautauqua Park, the Third Flatiron framed perfectly between his outstretched, Nadia Comaneci legs.

For me, the younger brother still melting together my older siblings’ used P-Tex sticks, that represented skiing at its finest. He even added the words “Ski Boulder” below it, Lange-poster style.

Speaking of old school Lange posters, it’s a move where you definitely want to follow the model’s advice of “Keep those tips up.”

The irony is that the move disappeared just as skis began getting shorter, which actually made daffies easier than they were when we boosted them on tip-grabbing 205s.

So to all you closet daffy-throwers out there now skiing on even shorter skis, let’s resurrect this classic airborne spacewalk. Let’s raise our glasses and throw back a beer to raising our tails and throwing back our tips.

Pick a catwalk, mogul or other lip, throw one foot forward and the other back, and moonwalk Mount Werner, unleashing a move that for too long has been nudged backstage by mute grabs, corks and rodeos.

Think globally, daffy locally.

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