With the Olympics and all that other media attention snowboarding is receiving currently, one might be surprised that about once a month someone feels so inclined to write about how snowboarding is in a rapid decline. A decline that most certainly will lead to the ultimate death of snowboarding as we know it and the meteoric rise of skiing unless things change. The only problem is these people writing these articles don’t snowboard and in no way shape or form are part of the community that snowboarding has.
The latest of these journalistic atrocities on this topic comes from Outside Online in an article titled Can Snowboarding Be Saved? by Marc Peruzzi. Yes he too like those before him does not snowboard, in fact he goes on to mention numerous times how much he loves to ski and how it is part of his life while making subtle jabs at the one plank community.
In an attempt to make a connection to snowboarders he opened with these statements:
I was a state college kid the first and only time I rode a snowboard. This was in the 1980s and snowboarding was still illegal at New Hampshire’s ski resorts.
I remember laying the board over for one glorious powder turn. Effortless flotation. The way the G-forces seemed to sink into your gut. Snowboarding was a hoot; it was way cooler than standing up on a toboggan.
But it didn’t hook me. It’s not that I didn’t think snowboarding was relevant, I did and I still do. But I was already a passionate skier and never once considered giving it up.
Having done it once in the late 80’s now officially makes him an expert. As I once skied in the mid 80’s I too am now an expert on skiing. The idea of being strapped into a cold plastic boot that causes your toe nails to fall off seems more like some Guantanamo Bay torture device than a recreational activity. I see we have a lot to relate to on our ideology of the others sport.
It sounds like borderline bigotry to say it, but I have “snowboarding friends.”
Well glad we could get that cat out of the bag! Whew, that was a couple awkward seconds as I was reading on. I have friends too some ski, some snowboard, and both enjoy the outdoors together. I know crazy it’s like this snow sliding harmony thing where everyone is singing songs together and holding hands.
The problem isn’t so much snowboarding, but the snowboarding industry. The sport was invented by humble folk in the Midwest (by a friend’s grandfather) and Vermont (by some older classmates of my wife), but it was adopted by Southern California. Actually it was more of an alien rendition than an adoption. Most snowboarders in places like Maine, Montana, and Colorado have little affiliation with the carefully cultivated image of “action sports.” Then there’s the ageism. Over 30 years old but still get out and shred? The industry lives in absolute dread of you.
Hmm a Sherman Poppins reference coupled with a another to Jake Burton Carpenter. Way to really hint at a name drop. Please tell us who else you might know in the snowboard industry, it’s really building up your clout.
Maine, Montana, and Colorado don’t know action sports? Colorado has more cement skate parks than just about anywhere else in this country except maybe California. I’m fairly certain geographic location hardly limits ones interest in action sports.
The age demographic of snowboarding has shifted. It’s been coming since the mid to late 90’s into the early 2000’s. Those kids that were marketed to have now grown up, are having families, starting careers. Some have left snowboarding to pursue those aspects of life while others are coming back and bringing the little ones along. It’s a state of flux that is constantly changing. Skiing just has an older demographic and over 100 years of people doing it on their side, snowboarding has less than 40. The industry doesn’t ‘dread’ the over 30 crowd, they’re just trying to figure out how to market to them. Change takes time and the snowboard industry isn’t known for being quick to accept that.
I’m not making this up. Each February I experience the unrestrained joy of attending the ski and snowboard trade show in Denver. Here’s what I see when I walk the snowboard section: Underage snowboarders puking in the corridors after one too many keg stands—at 10 a.m. And overseeing all this fabricated youthfulness? Fifty-year-old white dudes in flat-brim caps, tight jeans, and designer flannel. Chuckleheads.
It’s actually late January for SIA unless you’re showing up on Sunday, which explains the puking. Although in nearly a decade of going to SIA I have yet to see someone actually puke in the corridors and as I am only walking the snowboard section I think I have a better chance of seeing these upchuck pyrotechnics. Yes, it is true there are 50 year old white guys roaming around giving out beer at SIA in the snowboard section. Why? Well those guys were once in their 20’s back in what some call the “golden age” and are still here. I’m sure if I ventured off into ski land in Denver I would see old white guys in suits in their 60’s and up rubbing their noses as they come out of the bathroom. Generalizations are so great.
But industrialized snowboarding hates diversity. Those Olympic snowboarders we used to welcome in our shop? They were once part of a small but vibrant recreational snowboard carving community. Think stiff and long boards with deep sidecuts that you could lay down so deep your tongue was dragging on the corduroy. It gave certain snowboarders something to do when there wasn’t fresh snow or when the idea of beating the piss out yourself in the terrain park didn’t sound all that inviting. And then the major brands stopped making carving boards. The image didn’t fly with the baggy jeans/tight jeans set. Thou shalt emulate the flying tomato and only the flying tomato. Check it out: White cut his hair and wears a suit now, while snowboarding. Time to buy a new wardrobe kids!
Freestyle saved snowboarding, that is a cold harsh fact. You can carve on a freestyle board, you can carve on a freeride board, you can carve on a splitboard, and you can definitely carve on a powder board. The biggest segment of boards is All-Mountain. Why? Because they are the masters of none but still a jack of all trades.
Carving died because it was stagnant much like skiing was in the 80’s. If snowboarding had followed this path it would have died way before it started. Sure there are people that do it, and that’s great for them, but it’s only one small segment of snowboarding. Latching on to this ideal shows a lack of understanding, but as a skier why would anyone think you would understand the snowboarding community?
I strangely doubt there is anyone that wakes up in snowboarding and says “Today I’m going to be the flying tomato”. There are people that look up to Shaun White, but he’s on an other level.
Jake Burton publicly stated he’d never allow simple scuff guards to be sewn onto Burton pants—because skiers need scuff guards.
Well why would he want a skier feature on a snowboard pant? It’s not the market he caters too. After all they are the largest snowboard brand in the world. Why doesn’t Nils produce pants with a bigger crotch gusset so we don’t have to see 65 year old moose knuckles while they’re schussing around?
Jones had some great ideas for product and a new line of split boards, which bisect for ski touring uphill and click together into a snowboard for the descent. He went so far as to pitch the big snowboard companies on the idea. He’s too nice to say it, but those companies pretty much flipped him the bird. Their reasoning? Backcountry snowboarding is for old dudes.
I wonder if Jeremy Jones wants you speaking on his behalf on how or what he did for the industry. Fairly certain he helped Rossignol launch their splitboard designs. Other companies followed suit and now you can see a splitboard in almost every major brands lineup.
And why are they hanging with a sport that doesn’t care about them anymore? Because snowboarding is fun. And, ultimately, that’s all that matters. If, like skiing, the industry does a better job of making everybody feel comfortable, it might even thrive.
No shit snowboarding is fun. We don’t need you or anyone else to tell us that, it’s pretty much a given. There’s an age old saying of ‘you can’t make everyone happy’. There are companies that will cater to older and there are companies that cater to younger, some might even do it to both. But what snowboarding does not need is self entitled name dropping skiers writing articles for publications saying they know what’s best. If you had strapped on a snowboard in the last 25 years maybe you would understand that, but you haven’t.
I encourage more skiers to think we’re dead. Maybe then they’ll go away and we won’t have FIS controlling snowboarding events. Maybe then we won’t have old rich white guys telling people what is and isn’t the image of snowboarding. And maybe just maybe snowboarding won’t have bigot asshole skiers that write for online magazines saying we’re dead anymore.
With all this said I’m out the door to go snowboard, something everyone reading this should get to do more often.