What have snowboarders ever done for skiers?
Oliver Evans, Product & Operations Director: I have to admit to loving both skiing and snowboarding. I began skiing aged 7, but 12 years later, snowboarding burst onto the scene with its baggy neon clothes and carefree attitude and I was hooked. I love both in equal measure but without snowboarding, skiing wouldn’t be half as much fun. Here’s why:
- Sidecut – one word whose importance cannot be underestimated. In the mid 1990s, Elan copied the sidecut from snowboards and “parabolic skis” signalled the birth of the skiing revolution. Skiers gradually realised that size wasn’t everything and skis became wider, shorter and a lot more fun
- Freeride and off piste – We snowboarders never tire of being told “snowboarding is so much easier than skiing, especially in powder” (usually from skiers who tried snowboarding for a day before giving up). Not strictly true any more since most skis now have more surface area than snowboards but admit it - the inspiration of seeing snowboarders throw big rooster tails of powder is what has got even intermediates talking about getting “fresh tracks” and doing transceiver checks.
- Style – Who remembers “racer pants”? Elastic thighs with red flared bellbottoms. Popular alternatives were “elho freestyle” neon one pieces and the Parisians’ favourite – blue jeans and gaiters. While snowboarding is admittedly no stranger to fashion crimes, the baggy look came and stayed and save skiers from being eternally naff.
- Ski names and graphics – for years, ski models sounded more like cars with ridiculous names like RC4, Superspeed and ARS (really!), enhanced by more “go faster” stripes than an Alfa Romeo GTV6. With snowboarding came far cooler names like Agent 100 and Ember while the graphics are far prettier!
- The freestyle movement – Before snowboarding came along, “hot dog” skiing was like a bizarre gymnastics event. According to some, it may still be: Aerial World Championships 2007. Snowboarding brought the revolution in snow parks and halfpipes and few would deny that the stratospheric progress of the last 20 years in both sports has given them a new lease of life. The proof – the men’s snowboard halfpipe final at the Vancouver Olympics attracted more viewers than the “blue riband” event, the men’s downhill.
When I began snowboarding, the two sports were mutually exclusive. Skiers wanted to go everywhere at top speed while snowboarders wanted to look for jumps and go off piste. Nowadays skiers and snowboarders (in similar outfits) are seen together in equal numbers hiking for powder, lining up for a snow park run or even cruising the pistes. Only Alta, Deer Valley and a handful of “flat earthers” remain stuck in the Dark Ages. For the rest, the whole is more than the sum of the parts.