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Slacklining gains a foothold and some foes

Kate Vander Wiede, 21, a University of Colorado senior, practices slacklining between trees at a park.

Associated Press

Kate Vander Wiede, 21, a University of Colorado senior, practices slacklining between trees at a park.

BOULDER, Colo. — Slacklining has achieved the recognition that assures its arrival as an outdoor sport: it has been banned by officials at some colleges and parks where the test of balance is popular.

The former training technique devised by rock climbers is akin to tightrope walking — except the "rope," usually 1-inch wide nylon webbing, isn't so tight. This means that the line can sway wildly with the slightest misstep.

That's why slackliners normally practice just a few feet off the ground, stringing a line over a grassy stretch between trees. Some of the boldest slackliners perform thousands of feet off the ground on lines anchored to rock walls.

"I thought it was kind of crazy, but it was kind of cool, too," said Kate Vander Wiede, an engineering student at the University of Colorado who saw a slackline set up at a rock climbing gym. She went back two hours a day for three weeks until she mastered walking across it without falling.

"It's almost like meditation. You get on a slackline, all you think about is the next step," Wiede said.

But citing safety concerns and possible harm to trees, University of Colorado officials banned slacklining this year.

"Look, we're not trying to be killjoys here," spokesman Bronson Hilliard said. "You simply, as an institution, can't accommodate every single fun thing kids want to do when safety and environmental factors come into play."

Slackliners insist that properly attached slacklines, which include pads, don't hurt trees.

The sport took off about five years ago, when slackliners started posting videos online.

Now companies sell ready-made kits, and the activity started popping up on campuses and in public parks.

"(Climbers) thought of it as a fad. Now it's everywhere," said Maria Quinones-Phiegh of Los Angeles, who sells slackline equipment.

Slacklining gains a foothold and some foes 11/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 28, 2008 7:26pm]
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