Snowboarding Culture in Decline: Is Stigmatism Among CC Skier Population to Blame?

Written by Griffin Mansi

Skiing is pervasive during the winter months; yet few appreciate that for many, snow means the beginning of snowboard season, not ski season. Snowboarding is a relatively young sport compared to skiing. Snowboarding grew out of surfing, skateboarding, and sledding in the 1960s, and eventually became an Olympic sport at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Snowboarding has often been viewed as a sub-culture within the ski industry—a counterculture for those who don’t agree with the ski culture. Snowboarding is to skiing what grunge and punk rock are to the music industry. Yet despite being an exciting and perhaps exotic alternative to skiing, the sport has been in decline since the mid-2000s.

This decline is due in large part to an aging snowboarding community and the feeling that skiing has become “cool” again. Industry experts have also found that many of the snowboarders who picked up the sport around the turn of the century and were the driving force behind its popularization have begun to settle down and have families. This settling down has led many of those snowboarders to have little time to engage in the sport or has caused some to switch back to skiing.

Some Colorado College snowboarders see the merit in turning towards skiing, just as older snowboarders have been doing. However, most snowboarders each have different reasons for making the switch, and most feel as if the hindrance of keeping up with skiers is a factor. “The reason I want to switch to skiing is due to multiple things,” said sophomore Seneca Griffin. “First, all of my friends and most kids at CC ski. Likewise, it’s easier for skiers to navigate lift lines and trees. I sometimes feel like I’m holding everyone up. Plus, there seems to be a negative stigma around snowboarding.” As many students hit the slopes of Summit County during winter months, many snowboarders may value the group bonding experience over their snowboarding experience. Thus, there is pressure for them to keep up with their skier friends rather than relish the sport and take their time, all in order to stay with the group.

It is true that many students choose to ski, which can promote skiing as perhaps the “better” option and leave snowboarders feeling stigmatized and left behind. While there are about seven million skiers and five million snowboarders in the U.S., many students feel that the student body is almost entirely skiers, rather than a similarly close split. While this may be true of the student population, not all CC students will succumb to the more popular ski culture. Some proudly ride their boards.

Norbert McGettigan, an avid backcountry snowboarder, did note the additional effort that snowboarders must make to share the slopes with skiers. “On transitions I feel pressure to be quick so I don’t hold up the group,” he conceded. However, he said that beyond transitions, “I don’t mind split-boarding with skiers. I also don’t really have a choice because I don’t know any other split-boarders. I think snowboarding in backcountry powder is actually more fun because the snowboard has a ‘surfy’ feel and gives you more float.”

While there may be a general trend of adopting skiing over snowboarding across the nation, that doesn’t mean that CC snowboarders must follow suit. Snowboarding is a distinct sport with as much value as skiing. To preserve snowboarding culture, however, this belief must be strengthened among both skiers and snowboarders. Moreover, snowboarders should be proud to represent a counterculture that provides a snowy experience just as fulfilling and fun as its skiing counterpart.

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