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Thursday 28 August 2014

Snowboarding vs. skiing

Events, Outdoor and Tourism Principal lecturer Rob Burton talks about the culture of skiing and snowboarding.

At the recent Leisure Studies Association conference I presented some of my research about the cultures of skiing and snowboarding and the attitude that participants of the sports have towards each other.

Research into these sports by other academics (Humphreys 1997Heino 2000Edensor & Richards 2007Thorpe 2010) suggests that snowboarders and skiers create oppositional identities towards each other through the language they use, the way they dress and the attitude they have on the slopes. If you search online ski and snowboard forums you’ll find that snowboarders refer to skiers in a number of derogatory ways, as “pricks with sticks” for example, and skiers retorting by calling snowboarders “gays on trays”.

Skiing VS. Snowboarding

When snowboarding first started there were many ski resorts that banned it and there are still some ski resorts in America, for example, where snowboarding is still banned. Skiers themselves often claim that snowboarders push the snow off the slopes, sit down in the middle of the slope blocking the way of skiers and generally behave with little consideration to other mountain users.

So, you might say that snowboarders have good reason to dislike skiers. Some participants of both sports claim that they’re generally not compatible because of the way they move differently around and down the ski slopes.

A few years ago it would have been possible to distinguish between skiers and snowboarders because of the way they dress on the slopes; snowboarders following a more ‘grungy’ and youthful look perceived to be much more ‘cool’ than the staid, stuffy dress sense of many skiers. However, if you watched any of the skiing and snowboarding slopestyle coverage of the winter Olympics, or if you ski or snowboard yourself, you will have probably noticed that there is very little difference between the look or attitude of skiers and snowboarders today. Just look at the image below or any of the stories related to the freestyle ski and snowboard events at the winter Olympics.

Personally, I’m a skier but I have friends that I snowboard with. From searching through online ski and snowboard forums for my research I found many examples of groups that are a mix of the two sports. I’ve also discussed this topic with students on my final year sociology of lifestyle sports unit and I would argue that there is no longer a high level of animosity between the participants of these sports.

Now, the use of derogatory language towards the ‘other’ is simply a means of banter.

If you’re a skier or a snowboarder, I’d like to know what you think.