Last week was a full scale exhibition in the reality that snowboarding has now hit its mid-life crisis. While this identity issue has been forthcoming for a long while all it took was one anonymous letter sent to the hate filled bowels of the snowboarding Internet to fuel yet another dramatic rampage of keyboard heroism. Which with all the talks of snowboarding being dead should show that the passion that keeps snowboarding alive, is well… still alive.
Snowboarding has changed, it’s a little older, the hair’s a little grayer, and yesterdays radical might just be today’s conservative. Change can be scary, especially when an industry is run by people that aren’t prepared for it. This is where the identity crisis has come in.
The largest group of snowboarders are on the tail end of the Millennial generation as well as the last of Generation X. They’ve got careers, families, and well you know adult responsibilities. Yet snowboarding, which statistically can look back and say that those ages 27 to 37 and up were the biggest group of snowboarders to date still tries to push the youth focus down everyone’s throat. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be a youth focus, but lets be honest here the largest participation group is over the age of 25.
This is the group that constantly has to say to themselves, “Am I relevant to snowboarding?”. Which has a legitimate basis with the current state of snowboarding. It has spent so much time building this culture and lifestyle that is so youth focused it’s forgotten that one of the inevitability of life is that we’re all going to get old and then die. But snowboarding keeps us young, even if it is only at heart.
So here we sit in a time when the industry is lost and looking for guidance. This is also why Burton Snowboards received so much flack from that anonymous letter, they have been the industry leader to so many people for so long. They are the biggest company and have undoubtedly done so much (not without their fair share of what the fuck moments either). This makes them a beacon or target depending on who you ask as the times change, and believe me the times are changing.
In Vice Sports article regarding the whole Burton Gate meltdown there is a quote from Donna Carpenter the president of Burton Snowboards, that very much showcases the realities of the current state of snowboarding. One that not everyone seemed to pick up on.
“We have revamped how we’re looking at innovation,” Donna continued. “We have a focused trail map that includes things people don’t like, such as focusing on our biggest accounts. The reality has changed.”
That sentence; The reality has changed, that’s the sentence that everyone should be paying attention to. Snowboarding has hit a point where the participation numbers are down, interest has waned, and the industry isn’t supporting itself like it used to.
This is why you’re seeing companies making longboard skateboards in the off season. This is why other companies have ventured off into SUP (stand up paddle boards). This is also why brands are into camping and weird collaborations. It’s a way to draw attention to the brand past the supposed “core” demographic. A demographic that realistically is such a minority of snowboarding that it isn’t supporting snowboarding. This is also why more companies are making rental boards and investing in better technologies to get first timers and ultra part-time recreational riders stoked to ride.
The animus and vitriol we saw is part of this identity crisis we’re seeing in snowboarding. It’s time to realize that to sustain a healthy industry we have to look past what has worked, we have to think outside the box, and we have to be willing to leave our comfort zones.
Sure there will be ebb and flow with participation, that is a given. But to stave off those severe dips we need to do a little re-tooling to the branding of this great thing we call snowboarding. Is it a lifestyle? Sure. Is it a sport? Definitely. Is it also a multi-generational social/cultural activity that is fun and enjoyable? Oh, wait we’re not supposed to talk about it that way. Well, it’s time to rethink that approach.
To do this it would have to be a multi-pronged attack. A way of keeping the current generation interested and promote their youth focus, looking at ways to bring back those that were the biggest generation of riders, and as always how to have people forget the entry barrier that is a result of the higher costs associated with it.
It’s time to look past the old arguments that have gotten this industry no where, which I pointed out in the first article of this column series and start fixing the problem. Now that we know it’s a midlife crisis, lets stop with the emotional crying and finger pointing and fix this shit so we can get back to what really matters which is riding more and having fun.
Questions, comments, concerns let us know in the comments section below. Have an idea or want to contribute to this column feel free to email me directly Avran @angrysnowboarder.com