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David Barton
Rock climbing to ski training: Refine your outdoor skills at inside venues.

Lots of snow means skiers and boarders are having fun and working on their skills at Sugar Bowl, Heavenly and Squaw. And in Curtis Park.

It's there, in that completely snow-free - indeed, hill-free - Sacramento neighborhood, that novices and experts alike can develop their ski legs on a rolling length of carpet that serves as a passable ski slope.

The contraption, run by ski instructor out of his tiny garage, manages to emulate a snowy slope well enough for students to improve their skiing while 90 minutes away from the nearest decent snow.

Morishima's mechanical slope isn't the only indoor version of an essentially outdoor sport available to Sacramento area residents. For skiing, rock climbing or playing soccer, tennis or hockey, Sacramento has a number of sheltered venues for people who are, at least for the rainy season, willing to settle for being inside.

That can become necessary because, while Sacramento isn't hit by winter nearly as hard as much of the nation, rock climbing and mountain biking are among the sports that can become problematic when it gets wet or cold outside. Or, as in recent weeks, both.

Even in good weather, the best places to engage in those sports can be at least an hour's drive away.

So a number of entrepreneurs have tried indoor alternatives to outdoor sports. Many have come and gone over the past 10 years, notably indoor golf simulators. Some are doing well and others are still being planned.

Morishima's "endless slope" at his Curtis Park SnoZone Ski and Snowboard School is doing very well, according to its owner.

Using a remarkable contraption that gives him a terrific opportunity to observe his students, Morishima is able to correct their form as they're actually skiing.

"By seeing up close what the student is doing, I can help them correct it right away," says Morishima, who has trained professional skiers at his schools in Sacramento and San Francisco.

He even trained the chimp who performed snowboard stunts in the 2003 film "MXP: Most Xtreme Primate."

"It's much more difficult and inefficient to do it watching them ski by, or even skiing with them," he says. "Students learn much faster this way, at all levels."

David Barton

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