The Skier vs. Snowboarder Debate – Is It Still There?

by Fraser

This is old news, nothing new here, move along please. We’re over the skier vs. snowboarder debate, we all use the mountain together, we’re all there to have fun. There are similarities between the two cultures, but some differences too. It’s all good. Yes, to many, this debate is old news. But what do you think? Is it still there? Is it still relevant?


Old attitudes and attitudes of the “older”

Go to any ski/snowboard resort and take a look around at the skiers. You’ll see a diverse range or ages. Tiny tots to pensioners – you’ll find the young and old on skis.

Go back 5 or 10 years – it’s difficult to say the same about snowboarders. It’s probably hard to say the same now. It’s a younger breed. Of course, that will change with time; we’ll see more, older snowboarders on the mountains.

During the process of snowboarding becoming more and more popular, one key element to the them and us theme has been the difference in the age groups involved. There simply aren’t enough old snowboarders out there to ‘tut’ at you when they think you’re doing something foolish. The older generation of skiers have had to watch as their mountains were infiltrated by reckless youth on “ski boards” (yes, that is a reference to Forum’s That).

That will change with time; it’s changing now.

But do old attitudes remain?

Last season we stayed in a catered chalet in Morzine – we were the only snowboarders, the rest were skiers. They were all nice people, friendly, fun. Yet it was interesting to note the general opinion of snowboarders. Always sitting down on the slope. Making a barrier at the top of a run when they get off the lift. Less refined than skiing.

And I recall a funny moment from a lift queue in Fernie – three skiers moved past us and a women looked at us, smiled, and said “check out this bunch of knuckle draggers”.

Most comments and opinions like this are given in jest – but you know what people say about things spoken in jest…

Lack of understanding

I think there’s often a lack of understanding between the two groups. The “sitting down on the hill” comment is very common. I’m just not sure that skiers are aware that it can be difficult to stand up on a gradient. They’re used to having two skis to prop them up. If you’re waiting, it’s much easier to sit down, as a snowboarder.

I often hear snowboarders complain that skiers are “blocking a jump”, or a hit. Maybe it’s the some useful terrain at the side of the piste and you’re waiting to hit it but there’s a skier stood in the way. A snowboarder wouldn’t stand there – because they’d notice it’s usefulness to other snowboarders… but the skier is standing at the side for a reason, to keep out of the way. They perhaps don’t use features like that, so they just didn’t notice…

You’ve got to be careful that you don’t use one, huge brush to paint a whole load of people in one go, when what you’re dealing with in this case, is one idiot. If you come over a blind rise and find a snowboarder sitting there, out of sight in a dangerous place, that’s not an indication that snowboarders sitting down is a constant menace. What you’ve got is one, dumb, snowboarder.

Likewise, if you’re making a run through the Stash and you find a procession of skiers, zig-zagging their way between all the rails and jumps with no regard for the condition of take-offs and the safety of a drop off… although it might be satisfying to remind yourself that they originally built parks to keep the snowboarders out of the way, but now they’re having this crazy kind of fun in one themselves – you’re better off dropping the they, and just acknowledging the fact that you’re looking at some silly people.

Natural group dynamics?

If you put the old debate to one side and think about how snowboarders and skiers alike will get along on the mountain – it’s only natural that a certain degree of group dynamics will be in play.

People like to be part of a group, a community, to be included and to share in an identity. This happens everywhere. It’s easy for one group to hold a common view of another group, to believe that their group is the better one to be a part of…

Of course there will be many, many groups that are a mixture of skiers and snowboarders. Of course people have friends that are skiers, and vice-versa. Of course there will many a lot of skiers who have respect for snowboarders, and snowboarders for skiers. But from time to time, group dynamics will pop up.

I myself wrote this article, explaining my opinion of Why Snowboarding Is Better Than Skiing. Although it’s just a personal view, it is a piece that reinforces the divide, that adds to the them and us theme.

Similarly, there’s this video, which I can’t help but laugh at, every time I watch it:

Are we still looking at the same old debate? Are snowboarders a minority that aren’t yet accepted in resorts? Is snowboarding lacking in credibility – are snowboarders? I don’t think so. I think we’re simply looking at one group co-existing next to another. You’ll see friends and mutual respect, and you’ll see some bitching. It might not be clever, but it is normal.

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