Wisdom Through Humor
Modern History of Snowboarding

marc schultz

Snowboarding may no longer be the sport it used to be. In 1988 the industry was a neopheliac's pursuit in Canada and the curious few ran the lifts as a minority. It was somewhat rare to see a snowboarder on the hills, and it felt like being a part of an exclusive diners club where the proper attire wasn't mandatory. The most popular trick was a "rocket air". This was a tacky nose grab only the eighties could produce and some even attempted to make matters worse by grabbing with two hands. Yet, despite the stigmas and lack of good taste, snowboarding prevailed on into the nineties and still continues to grow.

My parents quietly objected to me purchasing my first snowboard due to the shear rarity of such a thing. The large sports store I bought my first board from carried three different models, all made by the same company. That same store now carries twelve different company brands with an uncountable amount of inventory. As Canadian skateboard shops began to realize that this was the ultimate cross-over sport, little corner shops began to expanded and the birth of a new sub-culture arose; snowboard culture.

The incipient stages of this new culture came at a time when the economy was low and it was tough times for many retailers. Most ski areas rejected the idea of opening their doors to snowboarders, I remember the newspaper would run a list at the beginning of every season with the mountains that permitted it. The ski industry was vigilant about two things at the time: tight pants and skier safety; snowboarding would not meet either of these criteria. A board with bindings that were permanently attached did not coincide with the German Industry Standard (D.I.N.) of ski equipment safety. Skateboard fashion resonating from California called for much looser pants than your typical skier would be able to logically handle, and as skateboard magazines published the first images of snowboarding, the fashion seemed to follow.

The sport went from being a fad, to being trendy, to being the fastest growing winter sport of the nineties. At a time when the ski industry was weakening due to the state of the economy, ski shops began to dedicate entire sections of their store to snowboarding. The fashion was very different and really stood out next to the red one-piece ski suit, the industry needed a make-over and snowboarding provided it. However, not all skiers would go quietly and there was a rivalry in the making. Much like American black history, they separated the skiers and the boarders, creating a difference where there wasnt one. Some trails were for skiers only and riding them meant getting your ticket cut. I witnessed confrontations in the lift lines and was a spectator to a fight where Tyson was swinging a ski pole and Hollyfield was wearing baggy pants.

These isolated events did continue but slowly things began to warm up and we would see the creation of the new skier. Extreme skiing became a marketable idea, the influential success of snowboarding dollars made it a profitable move, and the similarities between skiers and riders became more apparent. Most people associated a white turtle neck with a navy sweater over top as skier fashion, one now couldn't tell the difference between skier and boarder, all the traditional ski and mountaineer clothing companies made snowboard gear.

Bearing in mind there was a very big extreme skiing sub culture prior to snowboardings influence, the official amalgamation came in the last three or four years. Skiers began to grab their skies, lose their poles and ride the halfpipe.

It is refreshing to see snowboarding have such an influence on a sport that has been around for centuries. I may not have been around to witness Jake Burton or Tom Sims test there first prototypes, but I was glad to be a part of snowboarding history.


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