Let me start by saying that as SNOWBOARDER Magazine’s Online Editor, these are my own opinions.
I have been a devoted Outside Magazine reader and subscriber for over a decade. Dare I say I have been obsessed with the high quality of writing in your magazine and not only your ability to pique my interest in adventure sports I do not participate in (and find myself enthralled to read about), but also in your delicate and generally informed handling of snowboarding (see: “The Cool Sellout” from 2002 which featured the World Quaterpipe Championships, the US Open, and perspective on the 2002 Olympians–an issue that I have saved at home because I enjoyed it that much).
But, Outside, while I have never expected you to perform as an endemic snowboarding publication, I did hold you to a much higher standard than the litany of uninformed, stereotype-slinging mainstream media outlets for whom snowboarding is defined by slang terms like “gnarly”, baggy pants, and an outlaw attitude. You, who are the liaison of outdoor activities to a large section of the public–the publication to break down sports, activities, hobbies, destinations, and athletes and introduce them to an audience who is unfamiliar–have let down an incredibly passionate and dedicated segment of people whose winters are spent outside. Marc Peruzzi’s piece, “Can Snowboarding Be Saved?” is not presented as an op-ed, and unfortunately there are plenty of people who may read his words and take them as fact–words that are only serving to perpetuate snowboarding as a sport only done because of its cool factor.
Unlike Peruzzi’s statements in his article, snowboarding is multi-faceted and speaking only about the freestyle side of the sport doesn’t do us any services. Yes, Peruzzi mentioned Jeremy Jones, but there are so many others heading into the backcountry, taking out splitboards and skins that many companies are now making them–gender-specific at that. Ironically, the company who rejected Jones’ earn your turns initiative that Marc speaks of was in fact a ski company. Online videos of powder-riding and hike-accessed terrain are just as popular as park edits and participation in this area appears to be growing. Other areas of interest? Trevor Jacob and Torah Bright are shining a light on boardercross and the event was just brought back to X Games. Oh, and carving. I think that taking a few runs with Gerry Lopez’s well-respected son Alex or snowboarding anti-hero Scott Blum will prove that hardboots and directional boards are not needed to achieve high-level turns. While the equipment may have been upgraded, its absence is not to be blamed for a lack of hard-carving snowboarders racing downhill and young pros are popularizing this part of the sport.
Yes, our demographic is aging, but Peruzzi’s views that companies are ignoring the old-enough-to-have-families demographic are incorrect. Burton Snowboards, one of the oldest, largest, and most influential snowboard brands is opening new Riglet Parks across North America at an exciting rate. Many resorts do not allow very young children to learn to snowboard within group lesson scenarios–below a certain age, skis are the only options for parents that want their kids to be introduced to the alpine by professionals. The Riglet Parks are changing this and allowing all the Rad Dads and Moms to share their passion for shredding with their offspring. If that isn’t a family-celebrated affair, I don’t know what is. Additionally, there are more and more grassroots events that are geared toward a wide age range. Banked slaloms across the US have old guy and old gal divisions alongside their grom counterparts. Beer snowboard leagues are emerging on both the east and west coasts. Co-ed adult summer snowboard camps prosper and women’s winter snowboard camps flourish.
We are celebrating our history and the importance it has in moving us forward, not in a “I’m going to stay out at the bar until 3am even though I’m thirty-five” way (even though that may happen on special occasions) as our community grows up. In SNOWBOARDER, we have a whole magazine column dedicated to early snowboarding’s professional riders who have “still got it” within both the snow industry and beyond. Many of these individuals are now running marketing departments, fostering up and coming riders, and have launched established brands. None of them appear to be chuckleheads despite the fact that beanies are a staple in their wardrobe.
Peruzzi complains that snowboarding is too exclusive, but perhaps our exclusivity is a matter of defense, because while we have attempted to educate the mainstream about who we are, what we do, and the fact that we don’t actually ruin the trails with the turns that we make, the majority doesn’t seem to want to listen, instead continuing to define us as an immature, weed-smoking, selfish community. While we’re not without our flaws, and yes, our industry has been hit hard by poor winter seasons and the general economic downturn, there are better ways to bring them up that can inform readers in a more comprehensive way and a publication of Outside’s reputation, in my opinion, has the responsibility to foster discussions like the one presented in Peruzzi’s article–not sensationalize them.
So, if you’re going to treat us like misguided outcasts who haven’t yet discovered that skiing is better–I ask that you stop trying to save us. Even when our influence helped to buoy new school skiing and Shaun White became the most influential person in youth marketing, we have not ever escaped the scathing commentary of those who prefer not to stand sideways, folks who seem to use “Cool Boarders 2″ as their main point of reference for showcasing who the snowboarder is. So, let us be. We shift and adapt at our own pace. The snowboarding industry already has its work cut out for it without skiers asking Burton to sew scuff guards onto their pants (please don’t, Jake). While snowboarding is one of the most-viewed sports at the Winter Olympics, we’re struggling with the FIS and IOC to have influence over our own disciplines. There are still three resorts in the US that do not allow snowboarding at all (while I’m not begging to go ride at these places, the mindset is frustrating). Not to mention we’re constantly dealing with mainstream media outlets who want to poke fun at and/or profit off misuse of our slang and perpetuation of our stereotypes. Most of the time, when I read articles whose misinformation is offensive, I let it roll off my back–they don’t know any better and by this point we’re all used to it. I don’t expect core media sensibility from the mainstream–but this time, when the voice of misinformation was emanating from a publication that I have so much respect for and is so widely heard within the outdoor community, I felt the need to air my complaints.
So, Outside, next time you need to write about snowboarding, please hire a snowboarder to do so. Even one who is over 25, has a family, holds down a decent job, maybe even takes his/her kids to Riglet Parks to learn how to shred. While this person may still crack PBRs at business meetings and may wear flannel as their uniform, they’re far from the immature, flash-in-a-pan, pandering snowboarder that Peruzzi’s article describes.
A disappointed reader who always reads the letters section of your magazine and appreciates your candor with your constituency.