The post Why Snowboarding Was “Better When They Hated Us” appeared first on agnarchy.com.

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Snowboard Iskola

There is a sentiment among OG snowboarders that “it was better when they hated us.” That the life and culture of snowboarding as a whole was better when there were more than three resorts that prohibited our presence. Being a snowboarder meant something, meant being a part of something; it was a signal to the corporate world, and that signal was unanimously “Fuck. You.” The corporate world didn’t want us, and we didn’t need them. 

Not only did the prohibition of snowboarding create a level of angst that brought snowboarders together, we knew where our allegiances were. Banned from almost all resorts, snowboarders had to poach lines at night to develop product or even just snowboard at all. Because of this, snowboarding produced style and passion not yet seen in skiing. For many, snowboarding has always been about experiencing freedom of expression through movement, and in the early days that freedom was prohibited anywhere that skiing existed.

Somewhere between then and now, snowboarding became too good for itself. Snowboarding became less about hanging out with your friends and having a good time to being more about instagram shots and contest prize money. Maybe, just maybe had we not gone this route, small places like Pando in Michigan would still be open and lift lines shorter for it. You may think of Suicide Six Vermont as the first place to allow snowboarding in 1982. But what about Ski Cooper Colorado in 1980 or Pando Michigan with snurfer contests in the 1970s? Now, Pando sits vacant and even most Colorado residents don’t really know that Ski Cooper exists.

Think back to the time before you got your driver’s license. If you were a skater, you would skate literally anything. If you had some pavement and a curb, you figured out how to make it entertaining. An empty parking lot meant flip trick practice and ollie contests with your friends. And on those days you made it to an actual skate park, life was perfect. You got to use all the skills you honed on city streets in a space designed just for you. No threat of the cops, no angered neighbors, and no wanting to throw your skateboard through the windshield of angry impatient drivers rushing to their shit jobs.

Then you got your driver’s license and you drove to the skateparks you always idolized, maybe even skated to. This was the dream you had dreamt, had been waiting for. And it lasted for exactly one summer. Then your skateboard started to collect dust as you had to work and were controlled by hormones. You would skate here and there, but eventually you just stopped. The kids aren’t alright after all.

The lift ticket is your driver’s license. It’s gotten so expensive now that places in Michigan can demand a hundred dollars a day. We did this to ourselves by chasing bigger and better terrain parks at all costs.  So now, snowboarding seems like one of the most privileged sports in existence. Second not even to skiing.

Snowmaking is expensive, and it takes a lot of snow to build parks. Even a 300 acre area will have a six figure budget for making snow. It’s rumored that a super pipe is a million dollars a year to build and maintain. But corporate interests started to realize that snowboarding was a cash cow and big resorts had enough money to spend to draw the attention of snowboarders to them. Especially after 1992 when the Pipe Dragon was invented and snowboarding became all about halfpipes. These ditches became less hand dug works of love to something machine made in comparably shorter periods of time. They also became much, much larger.

So in the late nineties and middle aughts, there were half pipes all over the United States just to bring in snowboarders. Early terrain parks often didn’t allow skiers to enter them, so that money was being invested entirely to bring in snowboarders. It worked. Places that couldn’t afford that level of expenditure were abandoned for brighter horizons and bigger parks, even though they were the first to accept us as people. And now? Halfpipes are just gone. More and more resorts are tearing them out and you consider yourself lucky to have one. Even luckier still if you have a bowl park like the one at Timberline or Pine Knob.

Bowl parks like this are an OG skateboarders dream.

Snowboarding, in the form of dollars for lift tickets means we have quite literally paid for our acceptance into normative culture. Sure, season passes are cheap for the big resorts of our childhood dreams if they’re on Epic or Ikon. But day passes of $200+ and lines that are hours long are the fruits of no longer skating, or snowboarding, your local parking lot with friends. And all of the evidence points to these companies not caring about the sport, but simply the money they can extract from it.

We’ve stopped working with whatever we have out of necessity, and started paying exorbitant fees to places who only want us for our money.  We stopped building a laid back culture at small indy parks and riding anything we could find. It’s easier to just buy a lift ticket and ride the terrain that is obviously more fun, that doesn’t require being creative or walking uphill. It’s the staleness of competitive snowboarding compared to wandering the wilderness. There’s a reason Craig Kelly walked away from the arguments of Sim’s and Burton. Life was better out there.

You don’t have to wander off in the backcountry investing hours into one line to get back to the heart of snowboarding. When’s the last time you looked at a green run as a playground? Butter tricks and tail blocks are just as fun as cliff drops. A powder run on the coast of Lake Michigan with its 200 feet of vertical is majestic. Just make snowboarding as fun as you can with what’s available where you live. Hang out with your friends, and your kids when the time comes. Take a few laps at the closest hill and just have fun. There’s a reason the best moments are free.

Michigan Backcountry Snowboarding
This was taken on the shores of Lake Michigan

To this day, one of my favorite snowboard memories isn’t while snowboarding itself. It was skipping school with my friends to build a backyard booter. With a beater plow truck to move snow, a crew of three or four to shape the lip and landing, we were just hanging out. With no inrun hill, the plan was to use dirt bikes or snowmobiles to hit the jump we had just built. All we needed to do was wait for one more big storm to fill the landing back in. That storm would never come. I remember driving by it almost every day to the lift access hill, watching it melt little by little. 

I don’t think anyone ever hit that jump, but the memory is cherished all the same. We were friends playing hookie and fighting the man just to have fun. Even if the plow truck driver was a dirty skier, we just wanted to hang out and hit big jumps together. (That truck eventually caught fire on the way to the hill one day. Dirtbag life, eh.) And every day that I passed that booter, it was a sign of hope as much as of sadness. Yes it sucked to watch it melt, but there was still the anticipation of that one storm that would let us rebuild it and bring it online. That one magical storm that would let us huck meat hanging out with friends under the glow of construction lights.

It’s not that snowboarding was better when the world hated snowboarders. It’s that we had a cause to rally around and a necessity to be creative. There was a unity among that “core” crowd of people, and it’s what separated snowboarders from “people who snowboard”. Snowboarders see the whole world as a playground. That street rail over there, the picnic table in the park, everything is fair game if you don’t get caught. You don’t have to increase your responsibilities as an adult to afford a big resort holiday, you just have to see the world as a child, like a playground, once more.

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