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Skis v. Boards

By Beacon Staff

The biggest newspaper in town had headlines today that the interest in snowboarding was starting to fade out. Then they went into a long discussion about why it had become so popular in the first place. Originally a snowboard was just a piece of wood about the same size as today’s snowboards but it had a rope through a hole in the front for the rope that the rider could hang onto and hold the nose up so it would not dig into the snow. It was called a Snurf with its roots coming from surfing.

Back in those days, people used to send me footage of their latest invention. The first good movies I saw of snowboarding were from Salt Lake City, Utah, with two distinctively different boards in them. One was shaped almost exactly the same as a small surfboard and the other one had a split tail with a big V shaped notching in the tail. The photography was good, the powder snow was light and the riders were very talented. There was only one thing wrong with the sequence: every single turn was interrupted by a spectacular crash.

When the inventor and the cameraman asked me what I thought, I suggested that he put bindings on his boards. He did and before long I was getting footage from him of his riders climbing to do things on their boards that I had never seen a skier do. The one remaining problem was that the ski resorts refused to let snowboarders ride their lifts.

When truly spectacular snowboard footage began to be gathered by my own cameramen, I was putting it in my movies for a decade before they got to ride a chairlift instead of having to climb.

One day when some Vail executives asked me my opinion of snowboarders I told them, I think you should form your own opinion of riding snowboards by hiring the best snowboard rider you can find and hire he or she for a week or 10 days. Then equip at least 10 ski instructors to take lessons in riding one. Within a week, the same Vail people were asking me, “Where and how big should we build a half pipe?”

This is when I came up with the statement, “If snowboards had been invented before skis, the ski resort owners would not let me ride their lifts with a funny thing on each foot.”

Even more important, are you going down the hill with a smile on your face?

While all of the snowboard growth was happening I left the hotel or condo every morning with 35 to as much as 50 pounds of camera gear in my rucksack so my skiers and I could find untracked powder snow somewhere. While they were climbing on skis or a snowboard from the top of the ski lift I would be climbing the counter slope to get the best camera angle. It would have been impossible for me to do that while having one foot in a snowboard binding. When there was the occasional best bad day for snow and clouds I was in no mood to try and learn an entire new sport.

Recently we had a houseguest that was obsessed with setting the record for vertical feet snowboard riding in one day. He kept track of it on his cell phone and managed 70,090 feet in one day. He would just get off at the top of the lift and point the snowboard straight down the hill. After he set the record I suggested he could get close to it if he had just duct taped his cell phone to the chairlift instead. Then I asked him if he saw my favorite porcupine eating the bark off of a tree halfway down the hill? I think a good balance of those two things is the way to enjoy your freedom on skis or a snowboard.

Nothing really matters except are you enjoying freedom with those things on your feet?

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