The Sports Sermon: Warring winter factions

November 19, 2014

As I sit in my apartment, trying to make it through the last week before this semester’s first major holiday break, there’s only one thing on my mind: snow.

Specifically, snow-related sports. Like any good Vermonter, I grew up learning how to ski and skate before I was even potty trained. My parents signed me up for rental skis before I had even completed kindergarten, and I was on the slopes most weekends, practicing how to pizza (stop) and parallel (go fast). Eventually, during my teenage years, I defected to snowboarding and never looked back, causing segments of my friend group to label me a heathen, while others were happy to have me join their ranks. I’ve been on boths sides of the great divide.

That last sentence may seem like a joke, but for any of you southerners with minimal winter experience out there, the rivalry between these two groups is no laughing matter (alright… it’s kind of a laughing matter). The rivalry may be even worse where I’m from, given Vermont’s connection to Burton Snowboards. Needless to say, I’m a bit of an expert in the points both sides like to make. Keep in mind that these are caricatures.

Personally, I have ridden behind incredibly obnoxious members of both factions, and let me tell you, everyone is capable of making you want to run straight into them at the bottom of the hill. Everyone carves all over the trail at some point in their career on the mountain. Everyone stands too close to the chairlift. Everybody’s equal.

Or are they? There are still a handful of resorts in the U.S. that ban snowboarders from practicing their pastime. One of them is actually very close to where I live. Mad River Glen is hailed in Vermont as one of the state’s premier skiing attractions. They won’t let you forget this accolade. The Glen operates on private land, much to the dismay of knuckle draggers everywhere, and doesn’t look to be opening its doors to riders anytime soon.

The same can’t be said for one of its exclusive counterparts. Alta Resort in Utah was sued earlier this year for only allowing skiers on the basis that the resort sits on federal land. The four men who filed the lawsuit claimed that since Alta is built on publicly owned land, any move to bar people from the resort based on the sport they practice is ludicrous. I’m bound to agree with them.

I have yet to read an op-ed piece on the subject that doesn’t include some classic, seemingly logical arguments against allowing snowboarders. For one, many skiers seem to be very concerned about a so-called “blind spot” that plagues snowboarders. Since riders stand perpendicular on the board, and don’t stand straight forward, they can’t see half the trail and therefore run the risk of careening into anyone behind their back.

Let me make this clear: snowboarders don’t peel off and nail people they can’t see. Idiots peel off and nail people they can’t see. You’re just as likely to get walloped by some geezer on two planks as you are by some young upstart on one.

But skiers paid for the lifts at Alta and have supported the resort all these years. Why should they have to open their doors to the undesirables? I’m not going to touch that logic with a 10-foot pole. All I’ll say is that this sort of reasoning is what has kept a lot of people on the wrong side of history. The stakes are certainly lower here rather than some other cases, but it’s a terrible reason nonetheless.

In the same line of reasoning, some are even prone to telling snowboarders they’re welcome to ride the terrain that Alta’s built on seeing as it’s federal land, so long as they do not freeload and use the chairlifts or any of the other equipment. Well, of course they want to use the lift. Who in their right mind wants to spend the majority of their time hiking when they could be riding? It’s the exact logic that caused human beings to build the damn lifts in the first place! You can’t seriously fault people for wanting to be afforded the same convenience.

These places don’t have to let snowboarders through their doors. They have the right (so far) to say who can and cannot ride. However, in continuing this practice, all they are really doing is contributing to stereotypes of both winter sports. Snowboarders are still painted as hooligans and skiers still think they’re a few steps ahead of the game. In reality, they are only holding each other back.


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