For those unaware of snowboarding, it essentially involves sliding down frozen water on an expensive wooden plank. Epic right? But when did snowboarding become popular?
Snowboarding became popular in the 1980’s, having been invented in 1965 by Sherman Poppen. The earliest modern snowboard (the Snurfer) shot to popularity in the 80’s due to media exposure and the influence of snowboarding athletes.
In fact, many of the most famous snowboarders of all time were in their prime in the 80’s. This helped give the sport credibility (do people still say “street-cred” these days?)
This article will explain the rising popularity of snowboarding.
How Did Snowboarding Become Popular?
Snowboarding’s popularity peaked with widespread representation in media, especially in movies. The promise of boundless self-expression without overly expensive gear made it very appealing to a large number of young people in the late nineties and early 2000s.
A large number of would-be skiers therefore converted to snowboarding.
Of course at the time, snowboarders were not allowed access to ski resorts. This brought with it the thrill of rebellion…
The first snowboarders trudged ski resorts and alpine locations at night whilst they were closed. The darkness helped them avoid detection and snowboard—albeit dangerously—to their hearts’ content.
Snowboarding consequently became popular not just because of the thrill of riding but because it was born out of defiance and a burning need for self-expression.
This mirrored the rise of skateboarding culture which swept the states in the 70’s.
Since then, snowboarding became a recognized Olympic sport in 1998 and a Paralympic event in 2014.
Looks like snowboarding is here to stay!
Which Is More Popular: Snowboarding or Skiing?
Snowboarders and skiers have clashed since snowboarding was invented. Arguments have ranged from which is more fun, to which is harder to learn, and now, to which is more popular.
Skiing is more popular than snowboarding. The current data shows that the number of skiers in the United States is around 14.94 million, while the number of snowboarders is around 7.56 million.
Though the general number of participants in both snowboarding and skiing has dropped dramatically in recent years, there has always been a marked difference in the number of people participating in each sport.
In 2016, when snowboarding participants stood at 7.6 million, skiers were 13.91 million… nearly twice the number of snowboarders for that year.
While snowboarding was very popular among young people in the late nineties, professionals in the industry have gotten older, and many sponsors have pulled out. For more on this sad story, check out on of my other infamous articles – is snowboarding dead?
Importantly, this may simply represent the normal lifecycle of a new sport. Explosion, reaching it’s natural plateau, a decline and then the true fans (us!) continuing its legacy.
The Snowboarders Vs. Skiers Rivalry
The age-old rivalry between these incredible snow sports is infamous.
However, following recent changes in skiing demographics, it’s safe to say the ice has thawed.
Skiers were historically wealthy, middle-class and middle-aged. This created a feeling of exclusivity. The mountains were inaccessible to the majority of the population.
Enter snowboarders… Younger, poorer, louder, more outlandish and arguably… more fun.
This greatly upset the natural balance of the skiing world.
Many resorts and establishments did not give snowboarders access, and to date, a handful of resorts still don’t!
Thankfully, the hostility between snowboarders and skiers is mostly a thing of the past. Skiing has even adopted some of our equipment technology, techniques, tricks and overall vibes.
The popularity of snowboarding began in the 1960s, peaked in the early 2000s, and has unfortunately declined in recent times.
Not to worry.
Snowboarding still has millions of fans worldwide [source]…all whilst retaining some of it’s “cult like” status.
The important thing is that snowboarding remains just as fun.
So get out there and head to one of the 13 Best Snowboard Resorts In The World!
Or if you’re in the mood for more reading, do you want to know when snowboarding first became an olympic sport?