Some of the larger snowboarding competitions include the European Air & Style, the Japanese X-Trail Jam, Burton Global Open Series, Shakedown, FIS World Championships, the annual FIS World Cup, the Winter X Games and the Winter Dew Tour.
Snowboarding has been a Winter Olympic sport since the 1998 Winter Olympics. Events have changed through the years. During the 2018 Winter Olympics, the snowboarding events were big air, halfpipe, parallel giant slalom, slopestyle and snowboard cross.
Part of the snowboarding approach is to ensure maximum fun, friendship and event quality.
The United States of America Snowboarding Association (USASA) features three different divisions which include alpine, freestyle, and boardercross. Alpine consists of giant slalom and slalom which is a competition in which the agility and ability to make sharp turns of the snowboarders are tested. Freestyle consists of slopestyle and halfpipe. In boardercross, the idea is to be the first snowboarder down the mountain where everyone is racing each other through an obstacle course of harsh turns and wipeout potential is very likely.
The snowboarding way of life came about as a natural response to the culture from which it emerged. Early on, there was a rebellion against skiing culture and the view that snowboarders were inferior. Skiers did not easily accept this new culture on their slopes. The two cultures contrasted each other in several ways including how they spoke, acted, and their entire style of clothing. Snowboarders first embraced punk and later hip-hop looks into their style. Words such as “dude”, “gnarly”, and “Shred the Gnar” are some examples of words used in the snowboarding culture. Snowboarding subculture became a crossover between the urban and suburban styles on snow, which made an easy transition from surfing and skateboarding culture over to snowboarding culture.
The early stereotypes of snowboarding included “lazy”, “grungy”, “punk”, “stoners”, “troublemakers”, and numerous others, many of which are associated with skateboarding and surfing as well. However, these stereotypes may be considered “out of style”. Snowboarding has become a sport that encompasses a very diverse international-based crowd and fanbase of many millions, so much so that it is no longer possible to stereotype such a large community. Reasons for these dying stereotypes include how mainstream and popular the sport has become, with the shock factor of snowboarding’s quick take-off on the slopes wearing off. Skiers and snowboarders are becoming used to each other, showing more respect to each other on the mountain. “The typical stereotype of the sport is changing as the demographics change”.
Safety, danger and precautions
Like some other winter sports, snowboarding comes with a certain level of risk.
The injury rate for snowboarding is about four to six per thousand persons per day, which is around double the injury rate for alpine skiing. Injuries are more likely among beginners, especially those who do not take lessons with professional instructors. A quarter of all injuries occur to first-time riders and half of all injuries occur to those with less than a year of experience. Experienced riders are less likely to suffer injury, but the injuries that do occur tend to be more severe.
Two-thirds of injuries occur to the upper body and one-third to the lower body. This contrasts with alpine skiing where two-thirds of injuries are to the lower body. The most common types of injuries are sprains, which account for around 40% of injuries. The most common point of injury is the wrists – 40% of all snowboard injuries are to the wrists and 24% of all snowboard injuries are wrist fractures. There are around 100,000 wrist fractures worldwide among snowboarders each year. For this reason, the use of wrist guards, either separate or built into gloves, is very strongly recommended. They are often compulsory in beginner’s classes and their use reduces the likelihood of wrist injury by half. In addition, it is important for snowboarders to learn how to fall without stopping the fall with their hand by trying to “push” the slope away, as landing a wrist which is bent at a 90-degree angle increases the chance of it breaking. Rather, landing with the arms stretched out (like a wing) and slapping the slope with the entire arm is an effective way to break a fall. This is the method used by practitioners of judo and other martial arts to break a fall when they are thrown against the floor by a training partner.
The risk of head injury is two to six times greater for snowboarders than for skiers and injuries follow the pattern of being rarer, but more severe, with experienced riders. Head injuries can occur both as a consequence of a collision and when failing to carry out a heel-side turn. The latter can result in the rider landing on his or her back and slamming the back of his or her head onto the ground, resulting in an occipital head injury. For this reason, helmets are widely recommended. Protective eyewear is also recommended as eye injury can be caused by impact and snow blindness can be a result of exposure to strong ultraviolet light in snow-covered areas. The wearing of ultra-violet-absorbing goggles is recommended even on hazy or cloudy days as ultra-violet light can penetrate clouds.
Unlike ski bindings, snowboard bindings are not designed to release automatically in the fall. The mechanical support provided by the feet being locked to the board has the effect of reducing the likelihood of knee injury – 15% of snowboard injuries are to the knee, compared with 45% of all skiing injuries. Such injuries are typically to the knee ligaments, bone fractures are rare. Fractures to the lower leg are also rare but 20% of injuries are to the foot and ankle. Fractures of the talus bone are rare in other sports but account for 2% of snowboard injuries – a lateral process talus fracture is sometimes called “snowboarder’s ankle” by medical staff. This particular injury results in persistent lateral pain in the affected ankle yet is difficult to spot in a plain X-ray image. It may be misdiagnosed as just a sprain, with possibly serious consequences as not treating the fracture can result in serious long-term damage to the ankle. The use of portable ultrasound for mountainside diagnostics has been reviewed and appears to be a plausible tool for diagnosing some of the common injuries associated with the sport.
Four to eight percent of snowboarding injuries take place while the person is waiting in ski-lift lines or entering and exiting ski lifts. Snowboarders push themselves forward with a free foot while in the ski-lift line, leaving the other foot (usually that of the lead leg) locked on the board at a 9–27 degree angle, placing a large torque force on this leg and predisposing the person to knee injury if a fall occurs. Snowboard binding rotating devices are designed to minimize the torque force, Quick Stance being the first developed in 1995. They allow snowboarders to turn the locked foot straight into the direction of the tip of the snowboard without removing the boot from the boot binding.
Avalanches are a clear danger when on snowy mountain slopes. It is best to learn the different kinds of avalanches, how to prevent causing one and how to react when one is going to happen. Also when going out onto the snow, all who practice an activity with increased chances of injury should have basic First Aid knowledge and know how to deal with injuries that may occur.
Snowboarding boots should be well-fitted, with toes snug at the end of the boot when standing upright and slightly away from the end when in the snowboarding position. Padding or “armor” is recommended on other body parts such as hips, knees, spine, and shoulders. To further help avoid injury to body parts, especially knees, it is recommended to use the right technique. To acquire the right technique, one should be taught by a qualified instructor. Also, when snowboarding alone, precaution should be taken to avoid tree wells, a particularly dangerous area of loose snow that may form at the base of trees.
In a study conducted to examine the types of snowboarding injuries and changes in injury patterns over time, data was collected on injured snowboarders and skiers in a base-lodge clinic of a ski resort in Vermont over 18 seasons (1988–2006) and included extensive information about injury patterns, demographics, and experience. In conclusion of the study, the highest rate of injury was among young, inexperienced, female snowboarders. Injury rates in snowboarders have fluctuated over time but still remain higher than in skiers.
Show Boarding Media
Snowboarding films have become a main part of the progression of the sport. Each season, many films are released. These are made by many snowboard-specific video production companies as well as manufacturing companies that use these films as a form of advertisement. Snowboarding videos usually contain video footage of professional riders sponsored by companies. Snowboarding films are also used as documentation of snowboarding and showcasing current trends and styles of the sport.
Snowboard magazines are integral in promoting the sport, although less so with the advent of the internet age. Photo incentives are written into many professional riders’ sponsorship contracts giving professionals not only publicity but a financial incentive to have a photo published in a magazine. Snowboard magazine staff travel with professional riders throughout the winter season and cover travel, contests, lifestyle, rider and company profiles, and product reviews. Snowboard magazines have recently made a push to expand their brands to the online market, and there has also been growth in online-only publications. Popular magazines include Transworld Snowboarding (USA), Snowboarder Magazine (USA), Snowboard Magazine (USA), and Whitelines (UK).
While the first snowboard companies fielded “teams” of riders to compete in the early 1980s, there was little to no prize money, and the companies themselves had no capital to compensate riders. But this changed as snowboarding increased in popularity and acceptance. The quickly growing sport developed a World Cup contest in 1985 and an international ruling body, the International Snowboarding Federation, in 1990.
The first professional snowboarders were expected to ride in all major competitions, representing their sponsors’ brands through logos, stickers, and clothing. The launch of the first snowboard magazines and videos also opened up a new avenue of exposure for riders and the companies that sponsored them, and snowboarders began scheduling photo and film shoots around their competitions.
While the majority of women don’t compete in professional and recreational snowboarding, some do, but not enough.
Why is it that there is such a big gender gap in snowboarding? Estimates place male participation at around 66% and female participation at around 34%.
Not so long ago, Whitelines started an online debate as to why female snowboarders are so chronically under-represented in the media. The same point kept coming up again and again – sponsors just don’t see female riders as being as “marketable” as men, or at least not for their riding.
Evidence that the snowboarding industry takes a one-sided approach is everywhere. All you need to do is walk into a snowboard shop and you’ll see that a fraction of the gear is aimed at women compared to men. Watch any major snowboard movie and you might manage to catch a few seconds of the team’s token female rider promoting their limited range of women’s gear. Flick through the pages of a snowboarding magazine and you’ll notice most of the articles and adverts feature men – unless it’s a picture of a semi-clad woman who’s most likely never strapped a board to her feet, advertising men’s snowboard boots. When you Google “female snowboarders”, the first thing that comes up is an article entitled, ‘The 20 Hottest Professional Female Snowboarders’. It’s not that women don’t feature in snowboarding media, it’s just that all too often they’re represented for the wrong reasons.
Female riders are not only misrepresented in the media, but they’re also fighting doubly hard to gain recognition among their male peers in the snowboarding industry. Take backcountry riders, for example. The battle for women to get onto a snowboard crew is incredibly hard, much harder than it is for their male peers. And this is only the beginning. Once they’ve made it onto a crew, they have to convince sponsors they’re worth investing in.
When Marie-France Roy was questioned on the subject, she notes that it became particularly hard when the recession hit. “I feel like it was going good for sure but the last few years of economic recession is affecting everyone and unfortunately women are never the priority in this male-dominated sport.”
These are the last women you’re likely to see posing seductively for a “hottest female snowboarders” feature. They are women who’ve spent their entire careers striving to earn credibility and recognition for their ability in a male-dominated environment. What could possibly be more demeaning and demoralising?
So why is snowboarding still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to attitudes towards its female contingent? It’s undoubtedly due to the fact that snowboarding is a male-dominated sport, both professionally and recreationally. For brands and the media, it comes down to simple economics. They have to invest more in catering to the larger sector of the market. If this means putting boobs on boards, then they’ll do it, regardless of the fact that it objectifies the smaller portion of their market.
Of course, this kind of sexism is by no means unique to snowboarding. It’s symptomatic of a wider problem that blights our entire society. However, in an arena where the ratio of women to men is markedly small, the issue becomes more pronounced.
Snowboarding is also a sport that’s driven by the desire to see riders go bigger and more extreme. As long as audiences place more importance on this over style, women are always going to take a back seat.
Fortunately, change does seem to be afoot. Over the past few years, people started to see an increase in the number of women getting freestyle and street parts in films. Consequently, these riders also get more coverage in high-profile snowboarding magazines.
Even female backcountry riders are starting to get more exposure. Helen Schettini has made it onto both the YES and Adidas teams while gaining great coverage alongside Jake Blauvelt, Eric Jackson et al. Whitelines alone features a five-page article on backcountry legends Marie-France Roy, Robin Van Gyn and Maria DeBari on an epic split-boarding adventure in the backcountry of Golden, BC.
Brands that cater exclusively to women, such as Roxy and Nikita seem to be gaining a stronger market presence. All-female crews, such as Lipstick Productions are producing more and more content.
However, there’s still a long way to go before we see female riders receiving the same level of exposure as men. Another backcountry rider, Leanne Pelosi, was asked whether she thought women are starting to achieve better representation. She said: “I feel that the best female backcountry riders in the world are getting a tiny bit of exposure, but not even close to what our equal counterparts of the male gender are getting!”
One thing that became evident from the Whitelines debate is that there’s a great deal of support from the snowboarding community for female riders. Both male and female riders want to see coverage of women ripping alongside men in all areas of snowboarding, not just looking pretty in advertising campaigns. We have to hope this filters through to the industry so that we can finally see female snowboarders getting the recognition, financial support and exposure they deserve.
Another reason, is a general discussion from boarders
Intimidation– the mountain itself can be intimidating when you are first starting out, but so can all of the people flying by you on the mountain and in the park looking like they have been snowboarding or skiing since they started walking. Also, the snowboarding industry is basically a boys club. Much of the industry is male-driven and geared toward males.
Fear of looking stupid– no one likes to look stupid. I think that learning to snowboard requires a sense of humour and an ability to laugh at oneself and not take things too seriously. Everyone has to go through a learning curve. The process is different for everyone and for those who are lucky enough to start when they are young, it’s probably much less scary and painful, but everyone has to go through some variation of it. We have all taken the nasty falls… over and over again. And we have all looked stupid doing it.
Pressure to do too much too soon. We all need to move at our own pace. Some of us move more slowly than others. It can be frustrating for everyone.
A lack of good girl’s snowboarding stuff out there-don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of great gear for girls! There are super fun boards, really cute and functional clothes, and comfy and warm boots. But finding this great stuff at your local shop can be tough. And finding a girl who works at a shop, who has actually tried the gear is even tougher. It makes sense that they don’t stock a lot because there are so many fewer of us out there. But the lack of availability and the lack of women to talk to who ride the gear does little to foster the progression of women in the sport. And using your boyfriend’s old hand-me-down board probably won’t help your cause. It’s very likely going to be too big, wide and stiff for learning on it to be easy for you.
Not committing to learning. Going out just a couple of times per year is not enough to really learn how to snowboard. So every time you go out you have the same experience over and over again.
Stick with it! That’s the most important thing. Understand that it will not happen right away, it will take work. There is a book called “The First 20 Hours” by Josh Kaufman. He postulates that if you dedicate 20 hours to actively learning and practicing a new skill you can become proficient at it. If that is true, and for most things it probably is, you need to spend several days engaged in active learning and practice to learn to snowboard. So make sure that you get some instructions. A couple of lessons and time in between to practice what you learn should be enough to get you going. And you need to go out enough times to develop muscle memory so you don’t have to go through the awful learning curve every time you go out!!! A couple of times a year will be like the movie “Groundhog Day”…you will just keep repeating the same thing over and over again with very little progression. Once you learn it you own it, just like riding a bike.
Start slowly to go fast…it is important to push yourself, but you can do that in small ways. Spending extra time on mellow trails where you are comfortable and having fun is better than stepping up to terrain you aren’t ready for where you get your butt kicked. It’s not bad to go a little beyond your comfort zone, but respect yourself and your instincts and don’t push yourself too far, too fast. Snowboarding is about having fun! If you are getting pressured to step it up and you get killed out there, you will likely not be having fun. So take a step back, slow down and enjoy yourself. Celebrate the little victories and build off of them.
Don’t be afraid of the mini-park. If you want to get into park riding, the mini-park is the place to start. Don’t feel self-conscious, most of the people in there are just starting out with park skills too. Give it a shot and see if it’s for you. If you are nervous about it, there are lots of women’s clinics out there. They provide very supportive environments and instruction to try new skills that you might not have considered before in a safe environment. Or you can get a private lesson and concentrate on park riding.
Intermediate lessons or clinics– you can find lessons and clinics for varying levels at pretty much every ski area. Take advantage of these. If you go with a group, it can be a great opportunity to meet new people and learn in different ways. And you could have a new riding friend at the end. If you do a private lesson, they will help you with specifically what you want to work on and will move at your pace, so that can be a great option…particularly if you have hit a wall with something specific and you need help getting over it.
Though there are a lot of ski areas offering programs specifically for women, the snowboard industry as a whole is still a boys club. Groups like Shred It Girl and Shred Betties are focused on girls who ride, surf, skate, etc. so check them out. Slowly pro women are gaining more video parts. Hopefully, the more inspirational women we see riding, the more we will be able to progress the sport and make our presence felt. The more of us who get past the learning curve and love the sport, the more girls’ snowboarding will continue to grow. As we develop groups of friends who ride, we will be tearing it up like the boys!
The bottom line is that snowboarding is about having fun! So keep it light. Dress right so you stay warm and dry. And don’t take yourself too seriously. You are there to have fun. Sure there will be bumps along the way, but if you are patient and stick with it, you will get better, you will be able to do new things, you will see new terrain and you will challenge yourself in fun and exciting new ways!
Suggested manufacturers, accessories and products for Snow Boarding – just to name a few:
South African suppliers:
Please note: I do not take any responsibility for the accident, disability, death, public liability, third party, medical costs, destruction of property, damages to self or others, destruction of all equipment, disability, personal liability, general liability, self-harm, suicide, harm to livestock, harm to animals, harm to children and intentional bodily harm, for using any of the listed products and suppliers. Please consult with the manufacturers and instructors, when buying the equipment that is suitable for you.
If you have the itch, go for it, it’s a great way to stay fit and trim, exhilarating and the surroundings are spectacular! But my suggestion is that you should learn the basics first from an instructor or experienced boarder!
When you are ready to take on a mountain or just to feel the snow on your face, please take a moment and bow to people that are disabled, that cannot take part in such sports.
To all you avid gamers out there. Here are a few Snow Boarding games for you to enjoy!
- Steep Road to the Olympics
- Mark Mc Morris – Infinite Air
- Cool Boarders 1 and 2
My views, comments and content are strictly my own opinion and research and are not governed or influenced by any marketing of companies or brands. It is of my own free will to mention companies and brands that supply sporting equipment pertaining to the sport in a discussion.