How Hard Is It To Become A Pro Snowboarder? Insider Info!

by Fraser

For us snowboard fanatics, becoming a pro is the ultimate pipe dream. Money, mountains, fame and travelling the world. Sounds pretty good to me! But how hard is it to become a pro snowboarder? 

It is extremely difficult to become a pro snowboarder. Professional snowboarders must master the skills of the sport as well as go through rigorous training regimes and build a reputation before they can turn pro. Maintaining the role of a pro snowboarder and earning a living is even more difficult.

I know that paints a rather bleak picture, but keep reading for some interest insights into the pro snowboarding world. Let’s explore the difficulty of the training as well as the dedication, innovation, and luck needed to make it as a pro. 

 

Why It's Difficult To Become a Pro Snowboarder

There are a few factors that make it difficult to become a pro snowboarder. Let’s look at some of these. 

1. It Takes Time To Master the Necessary Skills

To become a professional in any sport, you must first master the most advanced skills. Snowboarding is no exception. Professional snowboarders need to learn extremely advanced maneuvers and techniques to make it as a pro, which is no small feat.

Here are just a few of the riding styles that pro snowboarders might have to master: 

  • Slopestyle
  • Halfpipe
  • Big Air 
  • Backcountry 
  • Slalom 

Mastering these skills and techniques will take even the fastest learner a few years. However, this is just learning the basics.

The snowboarder must then develop their own unique style, which will take a few more years at the least. (Breaking through the ranks of aspiring pro snowboarder’s without something unique to your riding is basically impossible these days). 

As a result, it takes considerable time for most snowboarders to learn enough to become professional. 

It takes a minimum of 5 years of hard training; however, for most snowboarders, it takes closer to a decade (or more) to become skilled enough to compete in professional sport. 

Obviously, time is required to learn the skills needed to compete in high-level snowboarding; however, there is more to snowboarding than just skill—you also need to be in fantastic physical condition (I know that’s hard to believe when you see them out drinking and partying!). 

2. Pro Snowboarders Endure Intense Training and Conditioning 

One of the most challenging facets of learning to become a professional snowboarder is preparing your body for the challenges involved. 

As a result, any snowboarder aiming to turn professional should complete an immense amount of conditioning training. 

Professional snowboarders need to be robust and strong in order to apply skills, maintain body positions while riding, and prevent injuries to the lower limbs during competitions. 

As a result, professional snowboarders regularly undertake grueling strength and conditioning programs to build muscles and condition their bodies. 

Olympic Medalist Scotty James In His Home Gym

To get into good shape for professional snowboarding, olympic prospects will train for four or more hours every day, even in the off-season, to become fit enough to compete. 

This takes time and effort, not to mention the immense dedication required to continue hard training throughout the year. 

3. You Need Immense Dedication To Become a Pro Snowboarder

To make it in any professional sports arena, you need to be incredibly dedicated to your training and your craft. 

Professional snowboarders must have a deep passion for the sport and unrelenting energy and willpower to continue working hard to improve. 

Professional snowboarders have spent years training, almost daily, for hours at a time to become better than their competition. They must learn all of the skills and techniques as well as overcome challenges and disruptions to their training caused by injuries. 

I know what you’re thinking, are chilled out riders like Danny Davis (pictured) really that disciplined? 

Believe it or not, they’ll be training much harder than you’d have guessed.

Having said that, there is a small gap in the pro-snowboarder market for rider’s who bring the vibe and don’t necessarily ascribe to the olympic snowboarder treadmill. Check out some of the most famous snowboarders of all time – many of them shunned competitions!

Most professional snowboarders must consistently bring themselves to training, work their hardest, eat correctly, get enough rest, and then get up in the morning and do it all again for years. 

As a result, the resolve and dedication required to make it far in snowboarding is a massive challenge that pro snowboarders must face and overcome. 

For snowboarders to make it as a professional, they must cultivate a mindset that maintains their dedication. To do so, they have to prepare themselves physically and mentally, as well as establish discipline in their life. 

4. Building A Brand And Reputation As A Snowboarder

Now that you know the training and experience needed to make it as a professional snowboarder, it’s time to look at some of the other significant challenges snowboarders face when turning pro. 

One of the most significant challenges that any professional snowboarder must overcome is building a brand and reputation.

To do this, professional snowboarders must compete in high-level competitions and perform well on the big day. This will attract the attention of sponsors who can further help the riders to establish a reputation in the sport. 

Snowboarders can also build their brand by making videos of them pulling off impressive skills or techniques and sharing them online. However, this is no easy feat, and it can take years to build up enough acclaim in the sport to progress as a professional. 

The days of scoring a big sponsor by mailing in your highlight reel are unfortunately long gone. 

As a result, a snowboarder could have all of the skills, physical conditioning, and dedication but still not make it as a professional. You gotta have the branding and reputation to go with it. 

Establishing a good brand is integral to securing sponsorship.

Sponsors pay for snowboarders’ equipment, travel, and entry into competitions. Therefore, a snowboarder who lacks the backing of a sponsor may not be able to compete in high-level competitions, making it much harder to become a pro. 

5. Becoming A Professional Snowboarder Is Not Cheap 

Another major obstacle you’ll face when trying to become a pro snowboarder is money.

It costs money to hit the slopes, and it’s not cheap. Especially if you are going daily and for years on end. 

Additionally, to master the skills needed to become a pro, most snowboarders must pay a trainer or expert to offer guidance and training. 

Then comes the gear. 

For beginner equipment, purchasing all the equipment needed to snowboard costs hundreds of dollars. If you attempt to learn advanced skills and techniques, you’ll likely need higher quality equipment, which will ultimately cost thousands of dollars. 

As a result, most professional snowboarders have spent a small fortune before they’ve ever made it to a competition.

The high cost of the gear and training can make it impossible for many people to become professional snowboarders. 

Even the snowboarders who make it as a pro may still need other incomes to support their lifestyle, as earning a good living is no easy feat. 

6. It's A Head Game

Sending huge jumps off of even bigger booters is no mean feat. 

Even harder is continuing to push for bigger and better tricks when you’ve just experienced an injury. 

You’re going to need to be as mentally strong as you are physically!

Riders like Olympian Mark McMorris have had to overcome severe injuries, often only to suffer further injuries. 

This is the central storyline of Unbroken, which is an epic documentary (here are some other great snowboarding documentaries). 

Tips On Becoming A Pro Snowboarder: Insights From The Pros

We surveyed some of the local pro’s. Here’s a collection of their best tips on how to become a pro snowboarder yourself. 

  • Buddy up with your local board shop! They’re good people to know and may even be looking to sponsor local readers. 
  • Enter every contest you can. Even if you might not win. Exposure and experience are key. 
  • Cultivate your image. Sponsors are sponsoring “you” not just your riding. Make sure you behave in a way the sponsor would be proud to represent. 
  • Have fun! Fans and sponsors can really tell when a rider isn’t having fun and is only in it for the dollar (looking at you Mr White). 
  • Move to the mountains and find a job that lets you ride everyday. 
  • Film everything! You never know when you’re going to land a banger. You’ll need tape for your “sponsor me” video.
  • Follow the winter (if you can afford to). By heading to the southern hemisphere you double your riding time and experience. 
  • Stretch. Your body will thank you. 
  • Never be the best rider in your crew. Ride with people who are better than you!
  • Save your money. Don’t blow (all of) your first big competition cheque. Who know’s when the next one will roll around. 

The Challenges Pro Snowboarders Face To Earn A Living

Most professional snowboarders earn their money through competition and sponsorship deals.

As a result, many professional snowboarders struggle to make ends meet, especially at the lower levels of the sport. Only the best snowboarders generate a substantially high income. 

Since many professional snowboarders aren’t earning the big bucks, they often become instructors or trainers and spend their time teaching other snowboarders.

However, this line of work only brings in an average salary, despite the hard work and dedication put in by the snowboarder. 

The professional snowboarders who do earn a lot of money are the ones with big reputations and established brands. They will have excellent sponsorship deals or successful media and social media careers. 

How Much Do Pro Snowboarders Earn?

While most professional snowboarders are not particularly rich, the biggest names in the sport—like Shaun White—are multi millionaires. Still, this is not on the scale of other professional sports. 

For example, Michael Jordan, a renowned basketball superstar, is worth billions after his various successes. On the other hand, Shaun White is worth about $8 million. In general, the average NBA player would be considerably wealthier than the most high-profile professional snowboarder. 

Reaching The Pinnacle of The Sport 

The challenges of becoming a professional snowboarder are just the beginning of the hard work.

Snowboarders need to work harder and more intelligently than their competition once they turn pro in order to reach the higher levels of the sport.

This poses a more significant challenge than turning professional in the first place. 

Only a tiny fraction of people who pick up snowboarding continue to train hard enough to learn the skills needed to become a professional. Then, only a small portion of these snowboarders have the dedication and good fortune required to turn professional and earn a living. 

Of the snowboarders who manage to turn professional, only a tiny fraction ever make it to high-level competitions. As a result, reaching the highest levels of this professional sport is an immensely difficult task that requires you to outperform and outwork thousands of dedicated and hardworking snowboarders. 

As a result, only a handful of people ever make it to the top of the snowboarding world, much like in other popular professional sports. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming a professional snowboarder is an immense challenge that few riders will ever achieve.

Even the snowboarders who make it as a pro may struggle to earn a good living from their careers.

If however, I haven’t put you off, then you’re already showing some of the determination that you’ll need to become pro.

Now get out there and develop your trick arsenal. Put your own personal spin on each one. I believe in you!

If you’re ready to swat up on your snowboard skills… head over to our other snowboard content. 

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