Sixteen months ago, the first smashing blow crunched through the concrete of the Berlin Wall, and the two Germanys were divided no more. Across Eastern Europe, other walls fell. It was a revolution, a revolution that galvanized a world weary of stagnation and repression.
I find it ironic, then, that at a time when walls of international and social consequence are tumbling another wall is being built on a foundation of silliness—a wall between skiers and snowboarders.
I’ve seen both sides—been called a wanker two-planker when I was on my skis and a knuckle-dragger when I was on my board—but nowhere have I seen the fray so fractious as in our letters to the editor. There’s one guy who’s written a couple times, letters filled with such vitriol and obscenity against snowboarders that I pray he doesn’t own a gun. His are like so many of the other anti-snowboarding letters out there: snowboarders are dumb, loud, out of control, unathletic, unworthy to be on the mountain, and most definitely unworthy to be in Powder. The letters from the snowboarders, on the other hand, are defensive, bewildered, and almost innocent: they can’t understand why anyone would have such strong negative feelings toward this simple, young sport.
Nor can I. I’m a bit confused by the whole turbid issue—and by the extremism it generates. How can someone who cares so much about skiing, which is nothing more than sliding on snow, be so antagonistic toward snowboarding, which also is nothing more than sliding on snow?
One problem I have in sorting this out is figuring out how much of the conflict is over snowboarding—and how much is over snowboarders. Snowboarders do come in all shapes, sizes, ages, sexes, and tax brackets, but the most visible ones (and the vast majority) are adolescent males. Dudes. My days of dudedom aren’t that far past—microns of testosterone lurk in the crannies still—and I remember how much pleasure I took from being loud, obnoxious, and rebellious. It’s no different for a 15-year-old dude today; and I think these guys intimidate a lot of skiers who might otherwise be attracted to snowboarding. (I also have a feeling there are an equal number of loud, obnoxious dudes skiing, but nobody notices because they’re “just skiers.”)
But attacking snowboarding because it attracts a bunch of loud teenagers is like attacking sailing because it’s done by uptight, rich white people. Maybe it is, but should you judge an entire sport on one flimsy stereotype? No. You should judge it on its merits.
Arguments I’ve heard against snowboarding are that it doesn’t require much skill (it does, but even if it didn’t, so what?), that it chews up the snow (no more than body-packing flailers on skis), that its participants are often out of control (well, it’s a young sport, so snowboarders on average are at a lower level than skiers, but it also has a lot more upper-body movement than skiing, which make it appear less controlled). Ultimately, though, only one thing is important in the argument for or against snowboarding: Is it fun? Anyone who’s approached snowboarding with the same open-mindedness with which they originally approached skiing will answer, unequivocally, yes. Snowboarding is as fun, as challenging, and as exciting as skiing. But it’s different.
What’s so bad about that?
First published in Powder Magazine, issue 19.7, March 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.