The Burton U.S. Open Qualifier for the best snowboarders in the country is at my home area of Seven Springs this weekend. Coupled by the excitement of the half-pipe,boardercross, and the slopestyle events in the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Snowboarding is definitely on the international radar screen of winter sports in this country and around the world. I was riding up the chair the other day with a guy in his 20s who said that he had been riding a snowboard for 18 years. I remarked to him how mainstream snowboarding had become. I have been a life long skier but have seen the development of snowsports in this country include snowboards, twin tipped skis, half pipes, snowboard parks, and even the ski schools have been renamed Snowsports Schools. Hey- we all are playing in the same sandbox now and no matter how you choose to slide down a hill, the joy of winter sports can be enjoyed in many different ways and expressions.
It has been a tough slide uphill for the boarders up until now. A lot of skiers had questions and animosities towards these new guys who had the baggy clothes, boards and a bit of an attitude in the early days because they were trying to break into the old boys club on the slopes. I was not the only one to witness boarders getting into it with old guys as they entered the lifts and exited the lifts. Lots of bad feelings because of the mis-understandings between boarders and skiers. There are a few areas who still ban snowboards from the slopes but that is being challenged on a daily basis. The pure unvarnished truth is that snowboarding saved the ski industry. Skier visits have remained flat in recent years and if the winters were soft in a particular area of the country, clothing and equipment sales were down. Snowboarding revitalized the industry with sales of new boards and the funky clothing that is indiginous to the young crowd who tend to participate. Lots of those younger generation boarders are now sporting the gray hairs but still ride enthusiastically along with the next generation. I have not seen as many of the confrontations as in the old days, but some of that outlaw mentality does still exist.
I am obviously fine with the boarders and all the clothing, equipment, swagger, etc, that showcases the younger generation. What I would like to point out is that we all have a responsibility to each other when we go sliding down a mountain as fellow showsports enthusiasts. I grew up with the Skier’s Responsibility Code which outlined among many things, that the downhill skier has the right of way and that a skier must be under control at all times. We have all seen out of control skiers over the years and the hope has always been that the ski patrol or rangers deal with that dangerous situation. I also remember my wife being frightened when a straightlining snowboarder came up behind her and screamed “Get out of the way” even though she was clearly the downhill skier. I still see boarders and skiers come into a lift line “hot” and lose their edge or edges and take out a person standing in line at the knees. My friend in Colorado is still recovering from an out of control boarder who hit him in the lift line and blew out his ACL. All he was doing was standing in line and “BAM” cleaned out at the knees. Hey- it happens with boarders and skiers and it is time that the areas and the skiers and boarders who are experienced, take up the cause of educating their fellow enthusiasts and enlightening them on the Responsibility Code. It really should be called the Snowsports Responsibility Code. If we all are playing in the same sandbox then we all must abide by the same rules. If an experienced boarder sees bad form on the slopes by a fellow boarder, take the time to get him or her aside and tell them in a nice way that they have to be responsible out there. Same with skiers. I have had many conversations with skiers and boarders alike who have cleaned out one of my visually impaired skiers and just ridden or skied away. I often say, I could put a neon billboard on our blind skiers and some of these yahoos still would not see them, much less care about hitting them. Not good form at all. So take the time to make sure that it is safe out there and be responsible. Skiers are learning how boarders make turns and can steer out of their paths if needed. Boarders also must be cogniscent of where the skier is below them and respect their space and not mark a path and ride it come hell or highwater. And we all must be in control when we get close to a lift line. We don’t want to come in too “hot” and take out an unsuspecting skier or boarder in line or worse yet a little child.
So, the point of all of this is, we all are together now. Boarders, skiers, twin tippers, blade skiers, whatever gets you down the mountain. It’s all cool and we all must have fun but we all must be responsible. We have to care about the guy or gal downhill and in the line. And no cause to get ugly in the lift line either. We all are adults and can have a conversation without confrontation. Enjoy the boarding and skiing events on the Olympics in the coming weeks. I can’t wait. Thanks for reading and think snow. Thanks to the two guys in the parking lot who graciously posed for the post picture. They were cool and wanted to know more about the Chronicles. I hope they are followers now. Nice Guys!! One last thing, if you can’t get my pictures on your pad, I-phone, etc, just click on the title and the whole article and pictures show up. USA, USA, USA, ………
All comes down to respect one another and have the time of your life on the snow !
Pat, Great entry this week. I started snowboarding in 1992(22 years ago). I think the relationship between skiers and boarders has come a long way. I like what you say about experienced skiers and boarders talking to the less experienced. If find that most of the things that I hear skiers complain about regarding boarders are really related to inexperienced boarders(who get out of control). I often have the same complaints about inexperienced skiers(who get out of control). Great blog, I enjoy reading it every week!
Thanks Sean. Guys like you know the drill. You have been around to know enough about the code. We all need to share that because there are a lot of skiers and boarders who need to be reminded to be in control and that the guy below them has the right of way. Thanks for reading. We really need to get together. Maybe you and your dad and I can hit Holimont or the Valley sometime this month or early March.
You caught me in a bad frame of mind about snowboarders Pat! Seems like the new fad at Killington is “pack riding”. Groups of five to ten experienced riders careening down the sides of the trails at very high speed. There has been one death this year at the beast as a result of one boarder turning into a tree at high speed to avoid hitting one the fellows in his “pack”! Maybe its a result of not having the pipe ready yet. No doubt that riders have added to the bottom line, but from what i have seen at Killington, there is a safety problem that needs to be addressed!
No doubt Hutch. That is why Janet won’t ski on the weekends any more. She is afraid. Education is the key. Like I tried to point out in the post, it is incumbent on the experienced boarders to share the responsibility code with those who are not following. Otherwise, there will be more issues. We are all in this together.
I find it interesting that your post titled “The Mainstreaming of Snowboarding” is mostly about safety. As a skier for 53 years and snowboarder for the most recent 20 of those 53, and instructor in both disciplines for the past 13 years, I have to say I’ve seen more serious incidents resulting from skiers’ misbehavior rather than snowboarders’ in the 20 years since snowboarding went mainstream in the Pacific Northwest. This included the 12- year-old intermediate skier who nailed me from behind about 10 years ago while I was snowboarding in the middle of a 70-yard-wide run, going 20 mph while he traveled at 40 mph. His millionaire father (national VP for construction finance of one of the largest Savings & Loan banks in the country) refused to pay my $550 out of pocket medical expense (repair of a 3-inch long by 1-cm deep cut on my back from his son’s ski) in spite of his son’s written statement for Ski Patrol that he was going too fast and it was his fault. I had to sue the whole family in small claims court to get paid.
What this points to is that the safety problem arises from (1) mentally adolescent males, who predominate in snowboarding but are just as dangerous or more so as skiers given the higher speeds they tend to travel at, and (2) adults who don’t instruct their children in safety, risk, and responsibility.
By the way, the mortality rate for skiers is 2.4 times that of snowboarders.
Thank you for your comments Guy. You will notice that I was careful not to lay blame an any one discipline. We are all sliding together. I think the skiers responsibility code belongs to us all. I will say that my experience is opposite of yours. However, again, my point is for all of us to be safe and be responsible on the hill.