When you consider taking on a new hobby, you’ll probably look into the expense, the difficulty, and how accessible it is from where you live. But one thing many people fail to consider is the culture.
Find a hobby with the right culture, and you won’t just enjoy a hobby – you’ll enjoy friends for life and a new way of thinking.
The good news? Snowboarding provides just that.
Discover how snowboarding can transform your life with our ultimate guide to snowboarding culture.
Snowboarding culture is a vibrant blend of unique fashion, language, and values. Born as an alternative to skiing, it emphasizes freedom, creativity, and community. From baggy pants to distinct lingo, it's a world where style meets the slopes, celebrating camaraderie and a deep respect for nature. Check out more killer snowboarding articles here.
The History of Snowboarding
Snowboarding has always had a rebellious edge.
Initially created by surfers and skateboarders who wanted to take their skills to the slopes, snowboarding was originally rejected by many ski resorts (and still is at these three!).
Most winter sports competitions also banned them for not being part of the establishment.
This makes sense when you consider its creators… both surfers and skateboarders tend to sit outside of the establishment with a more open-minded outlook on life.
From Humble Beginnings
Snowboarding originated in the United States sometime in the 1970s, but only gained popularity in the 1980s.
However, despite its growing popularity, snowboarding was banned from many ski resorts in the 1980s as it challenged the traditional ski culture.
As a result, snowboarders got creative, sneaking into resorts or setting up their own makeshift slopes in urban areas.
Rather than having large areas in which they could practice, most snowboarders practiced individually, using whatever was available.
This creativity still runs through the blood of snowboarders today!
To Mainstream Acceptance
As snowboarding began to be practiced by millions, ski resorts soon realized their mistake and allowed snowboarders to join their ranks. It was only in 1998 that snowboarding became an official sport at the Winter Olympics.
These days, snowboarding attracts a diverse crowd, bringing together those who love challenging themselves physically while enjoying the beauty of the natural world.
Quick-Fire Introduction to Snowboarding Culture
1. Flannel, Beanies, and Baggy Pants
You’ll spot a snowboarder from a mile away. And no, not because they’re carving up the slope at lightning speed! It’s that distinct style.
Baggy pants, oversized jackets, colorful beanies, and perhaps a flair of facial hair. It’s the “I woke up like this” vibe but for the mountains.
2. The Jargon
“Bro, that was a sick run!” or “Did you see that gnarly spill I took?” The snowboarding lexicon is as colorful as our outfits.
If you’re not familiar with the lingo, worry not. Soon enough, you’ll be talking about carving, riding switch, and throwing down some sick 1080s!
3. Community Spirit and Good Vibes
Hitting the slopes is just half the fun. Post-run, snowboarders love to huddle around bonfires, with acoustic guitars and playlists that feature everyone from Jack Johnson to Tame Impala.
It’s about the shared stories, the laughter, and the unity of a tribe bound by a love for riding.
4. The Bigger Picture
Snowboarders have a profound respect for Mother Nature. It’s her slopes we ride, after all. That’s why many within the culture are advocates for environmental conservation. Think sustainable gear, clean mountain initiatives, and an appreciation for the great outdoors.
5. More than Just a Winter Fling
Sure, snowboarding is synonymous with winter, but the culture doesn’t go into hibernation during the off-season. Many riders hit the skate parks, bringing their love for boards from the snowy peaks to the concrete jungle.
6. Have You Seen My Video Part?
From The Art of Flight to That’s It, That’s All, snowboarding films are a significant chunk of the culture.
Not just for the adrenaline-pumping runs and tricks, but for the breathtaking cinematography. In fact, one of my all-time favorite snowboard movies is “The Eternal Beauty of Snowboarding“. It really captures the essence of the sport!
7. The Ever-Evolving Gear
Snowboarding tech is always evolving. From magnetic bindings to boards infused with advanced materials, innovation runs deep. But despite the tech talk, one thing remains— it’s all about making the ride down a little smoother and a little faster.
Key Aspects of Snowboard Culture
The world of snowboarding events is as varied as the sport itself. From gravity-defying stunts at the X Games to the prestigious Burton US Open, these events showcase the pinnacle of snowboarding talent.
But it’s not just about the pros; local snowboarding competitions, pond-skimming events, festivals, and laid-back gatherings offer riders of all levels a chance to connect, compete, and celebrate the sport.
These events are a testament to the global community and passion that snowboarding has cultivated.
Snowboard magazines are the window to the world of shredding. Publications like “Transworld Snowboarding,” “Snowboarder Magazine,” and “The Snowboard Journal” are (or were) legendary.
I remember eagerly awaiting the 28th of each month, the day the latest issues would drop!
Sadly, the digital world drove most of these publications online (including this one!). Call me old-fashioned, but there was nothing quite like seeing the latest gear and tricks in oversized, glossy print.
But beyond the gloss and glamour, these magazines upheld the ethos of the snowboarding community, championing its culture, history, and adventurous spirit.
Fortunately, many of them are still available today… at the click of a button!
Snowboard music is an eclectic mix, ranging from punk rock to hip-hop, reggae to electronic. Artists like LCD Soundsystem, Odesza, and even classics like The Clash often set the backdrop for epic downhill descents.
This curated playlist not only keeps the adrenaline pumping but also complements the free spirit and dynamism of snowboarding culture.
The Snowboard Industry
The snowboard industry is a powerhouse of innovation and design. What started as a subversive offshoot of skiing has now become a multi-billion dollar industry, complete with its own equipment, apparel, and tech.
Top snowboard brands like Burton, Lib Tech, and Ride lead the charge, pushing boundaries with cutting-edge board designs, sustainable materials, and the latest in binding technology.
As the sport has grown, so has its commitment to eco-friendly initiatives and a sustainable future, making the snowboard industry not just a business but a movement.
*Of course corporate greed has gradually worked its way into snowboarding too, as with all sports. Fortunately there are still some super solid, snowboarder-owned brands.
The Values of Snowboarding
Snowboarding is still highly influenced by its anti-establishment roots. Many snowboarders still identify as outsiders, hippies, or lovers of all things alternative.
Of course, you don’t have to be non-conformist to snowboard – you can just as easily enjoy snowboarding whilst working a classic 9-5 office job.
But if you have always identified as slightly different from everybody else, you’ll find a home among the incredibly inclusive snowboarding community.
In general, the snowboarding community is incredibly warm and friendly. People from all walks of life and of all ages enjoy a warm welcome from fellow snowboarders, and old-timers will go out of their way to show newbies the ropes.
Respect for the Outdoors
Because of the mountainous setting of the sport, many snowboarders are dedicated travellers, visiting countries all across the world to explore new regions and steeps.
Many snowboarders report being nature lovers, which makes sense since the sport requires proximity to the natural world and is known for its beautiful setting.
Snowboarding is great for extroverts who enjoy getting to know new people, but it’s inclusive enough that introverts can feel included too.
Snowboarders tend to enjoy social plans outside of the slopes, and the strong sense of camaraderie means many snowboarders make friends for life.
Even snowboarding rules, which ensure you don’t impede or hurt another rider, speak to the inclusive and thoughtful nature of snowboarders.
The Language of Snowboarding
If you hear ‘shredding,’ ‘stoke,’ ‘gnarly,’ ‘shralping,’ ‘gaper,’ or ‘jibbing’, there’s a high likelihood you’re chatting to a snowboarder.
Those in the snowboarding community have their own mini-language, filled with terms to describe snowboard tricks.
Don’t be intimidated by the lingo if you’re new to snowboarding – you’ll get to grips with it as you become more experienced. You’ll be using the lingo yourself in no time!
Need a heads-up before you get started? Check out this helpful video about snowboarding terminology.
Is Snowboarding a Subculture?
Yes, snowboarding can be considered a subculture. When it first emerged in the 1960s and 70s, snowboarding was a distinct departure from the established culture of skiing.
Early snowboarders not only embraced a different way of descending the slopes but also fostered unique styles, values, jargons, and behaviors that distinguished them from skiers.
As the sport gained traction, so did its distinct identity, with music, fashion, and a particular attitude setting it apart.
While snowboarding has since become more mainstream and accepted by broader society, especially with its inclusion in the Winter Olympics in 1998, its early days were marked by a rebellious spirit and a desire to challenge the status quo, hallmarks of a subculture!
Snowboarding Culture: Is It For You?
If you’re wondering whether to take up snowboarding, there are, of course, things to consider in relation to money, time, and physical capability.
But if you’re up for the physical challenge and have the time and money to hit the slopes, you’ll enjoy an entire community that’s there to support you.
Snowboarding’s non-conformist spirit means that even those who identify as outsiders can find their home within the vast and friendly community.
Plus, the more experienced snowboarders in the group will enjoy sharing their pointers to transform you not only into a friend but into a better snowboarder.
Happy riding buddy!