Blogs & Comment

Snowboarding, freeskiing and the cycle of cool

Snowboarding was once the rebel brand of mountain culture, but for a new generation, are two planks better than one?

Not too long ago, with its look, feel and soundtrack (JP Auclair in Sherpas Cinemas’ “All.I.Can”), it would be a snowboarder starring in the above video, not a skier.

Over the past two decades, snowboarding’s rise to mountain prominence has been nothing short of meteoric: once a dismissed counter-culture led by skateboarders, it now gains attention from moms, dads and the Olympics. That transition has now seen the rise of a challenger to snowboarding’s brand of cool: freeskiing. Freeskiing is basically a type of skiing that borrows from snowboarding’s style, terrain park, halfpipe and general book of tricks.

So has the brand image of snowboarding actually become the mainstream mountain choice? In the new issue of SBC Business magazine, Richard Hillier takes an interesting look at the rise of freeskiing in recent years and asks, “Is freeskiing killing snowboarding?

Used to be skiers looking to get away from tight slacks and neon would have to buy jackets and pants made by snowboard companies. That’s changed with the emergence of ski firms catering to a more snowboard-like look and some snowboard companies openly embracing their two-planked brethren. Skiers also invaded the halfpipe and terrain parks. Freeskiing is the newest addition to the 2014 Winter Games line-up in Sochi. (One of the sport’s leaders, Canadian Sarah Burke, is in a coma after a bad fall during halfpipe training in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 10.)

The article notes that twin-tip ski sales have jumped to about 102,657 units sold in 2010-11 from 81,462 in 2009-10. In the same period, snowboarding sales saw a 4% decrease in units sold, despite making 4% more in revenue.

However Flynn Seddon, director of terrain parks and outdoor events at Big White Resort, tells Hillier that the natural evolution of mountain style and terrain park riding hasn’t hurt snowboarding, just has made it easier for kids to choose either one. “A lot of kids who grew up in the ski culture five or 10 years ago would switch into snowboarding—that was the link to the park. But since then it’s evolved in the last five years. Now, the young skier doesn’t have to make the huge culture shift.”