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Boreding the Why Zones

Roger Marolt

Now that snowboarding has been around for about 20 (very) odd years, I think it’s high time someone took a good, hard critical look at this “new” sport to see what the future holds for it.

Despite how easy we writers make it look, coming up with the right questions to ask can be extremely difficult. For this piece I can’t tell you how I struggled. After many hours, I finally formulated one salient question regarding snowboarding and phrased it perfectly: Why?

That’s right, “Why?” Why does snowboarding still exist?

Now before you get all worked up, I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m not antisnowboarding. I know it serves a purpose. Like sledding on cafeteria trays, it’s something to do when there’s nothing else to do.

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My aim is not to present another boring comparison between snowboarding and skiing that perpetuates the same old weary arguments either. I am not attempting to explain why skiing is far superior. I’m not part of the anti-gen X conspiracy made up of stodgy old geezers and brain-dead ski bums intent on wiping out the cancer of the slopes. If you’re a boarder and your happy, I’m happy too. I just want to know “Why?”

More to the point though, I want to demonstrate that I am unbiased. Did I support the “freeing” of Aspen Mountain? Heck, I was against outlawing snowboards in the first place. We were already dealing with the telewhakers without any problems.

Have I actually tried snowboarding? Yes, I made it a point to go out a couple of times every winter until it became pointless.

Do I have friends who enjoy snowboarding? Yes, at least I used to.

OK, with that established, last week I ventured into the Why Zones to interview several snowboarders. I was blunt, “Why snowboarding?” The most common answers I got were, “uuuuhhhmm,” “ahhhhhhhh,” and “huuuuh?”

Now, I know that skiers have to give credit to the snowboarders for introducing the sidecut revolution. They showed us that a fat tip and tail results in an easy carve. Great! We’ll never forget that and we will support the construction of a snowboarders’ display shelf in the Skiing Hall of Fame just like they made for the person who invented the Boat Tow.

Also, I recognize the comfort factor with snowboard boots. For people growing bunions, corns and calluses all over their feet and green stuff under their toenails, I get it. That’s just the price they pay for neglecting their feet all those years. Nevertheless, the important question remains: “Why?”

Why would anyone with good feet strap on a snowboard?

Today, we have fat, radical sidecut skis with twin tips. There is absolutely nothing you can do on a snowboard that you can’t do on skis. The only difference is that on a snowboard you do it slower and with less grace.

And, for those of you waiting for a head-to-head race between a snowboarder and a skier, forget it. A snowboarder carries less speed than a pusher on parole, at least on the slopes. (This, by the way, doesn’t bode well for all of you ninnies grumbling about those nasty snowboards whooshing past you on the slopes. If a snowboarder ever zooms past you, the first thing to do is turn around and start skiing forward. Remember, tips first.)

Even in the terrain parks, the houses that boarding babes built, the knuckle-draggers don’t rule anymore. Did you catch any of the X Games? I’m only a casual observer, but it looked to me like the skiers were going about twice as high, traveling twice as far, and their events were interrupted by twice as many commercials proving that they are more popular.

Last week, I watched the extreme competition at Snowmass. The skiers were dropping off bigger cliffs and landing their leaps more often. I will say, however, that when they did crash, the boarders got back up more quickly. I think this is because they have had more practice at it.

Manufacturers are even making super-fat, soft-flexing skis nowadays that work better in powder than snowboards do. And, in a pinch you can walk through deep powder on your skis. With a snowboard you are dead in the crystallized water.

It seems that Aspen Skiing Co. has all but thrown in the towel on snowboarding too. Have you seen their trail maps? Isn’t that a picture of Pat O’Donnell riding a snowboard? If that’s not cool, powder is soft.

Back at the turn of the century I clearly remember two predictions that the “experts” were espousing – by 2005 the NASDAQ was going to be pegged at 10,000, and there were going to be more snowboarders than skiers on the slopes. That’s when Lester Crown loaded up on Cisco Systems at 180 hoping to turn it into 360 and he legalized snowboards in Aspen.

Well, we know what happened to the stock market (and the reason Lester needs Snowmass Base Village so badly now), and snowboards are disappearing as fast as the Charmin at a chili shootout. Even still, I’m sorry to say my investigation didn’t yield an answer to the question of “Why snowboarding?”

Just as I was finishing up this project though, a young snowboarder turned the tables on me. “Why skiing?” he asked.

Aaaaah, uuuuuh, eemmmm … Smart aleck!

Roger Marolt has always been a skier, even back when snowboarding was popular. He’ll shred your message if you send it to roger@maroltllp.com


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