Is Snowboarding Cool Anymore?


Illustration: Nicola Rowlands

Words By Chris Moran Taken From Whitelines Issue 106

We sideways-sliding folk are guilty of being overly concerned with what’s cool and what’s not. From our fashions to our music choices, to the way we can fling a pair of goggles 30-metres through the air just by performing a few unscheduled cartwheels down a powder slope, we go to extraordinary lengths to look good. But just like the theoretical Higgs Boson particle, a unicorn, or a cheap sandwich at the ski show: the more you look for it, the more elusive ‘cool’ becomes.

And even if you do get close, the chances are you’ll get ‘cool’ all wrong. The comedian Eddie Izzard once described the line between being cool and “looking like a dickhead” as being “absurdly thin.” Izzard’s example was the matchstick in the mouth: just one poking out the corner and you’re James Dean casually waiting your turn to clear up the pool table. A matchstick in each corner and you’re basically the Chet from Weird Science about to open the door with your arse.

When you take backhanders from multinationals with no relation to the sport, the cool genie evaporates from the lamp.

But is snowboarding even cool anymore – and was even cool to start with? To answer this we must go back to the 70s and 80s, when ski resorts were places where rich dullards sporting pastel jumpers and Princess Diana-esque hairstyles hung out. So when snowboarding kicked the banquet doors open and began swinging its proverbial cock at people who looked exactly like the barbershop quartet from Trading Places then yes, we were cool. (If not guilty of gross sexual indecency.)

But have you looked at the ski industry recently? It ain’t Caddyshack any more and it’s not run by people trying to keep the lower orders off the fairways – they’re nice people, and they work hard. In contrast, snowboarding seems to have stood still, dick still firmly in hand (as it were) ready to rebel against something. Anything. But the world has moved on. And whereas we used to mock their 80s fluoro one-pieces, it’s pretty hard to point and laugh at someone wearing some plain, extremely functional gore-tex when you’re dressed in the kind of clashing tartan and camo ensemble that even Dappy from N-Dubz would think made him look like a tool.

Dappy from N-Dubz, or a snowboarder?

Which brings us nicely to the next question: how did snowboarding loose its elusive ‘cool’? And here there are two routes to go down: blame big bad corporations, or blame snowboarding itself.

There was a time when snowboarding’s marketing power extended to little more than a no-grab method photograph used in the Argos catalogue in place of a blank TV screen. Nowadays it sells us everything from computer processors to fizzy drinks. And when you take backhanders from multinationals with no relation to the sport, the cool genie evaporates from the lamp.

Or we could blame snowboarders themselves? When I first learned, if you claimed a trick you were essentially putting your hand up in answer to the question “are there any dickheads with their hands up near here?” Whereas nowadays, you can’t watch a pipe comp without every rider leaping for joy in front of the judges to entice an extra few points. It has all the dignity of someone faking tears and begging for another chance on the X-Factor. Whatever happened to people keeping a lid on it?

Now, discerning Whitelines readers will no doubt be aware of Redemption Falls author Joseph O’Connor’s idea that “self-deprecation is the preferred method of boasting of the vain,” but the irrefutable fact remains that genuinely cool people don’t get a trumpet out and announce their own radness. If you want to know why that’s the case, then please refer to the two matchsticks in the mouth theory.

So all of this naturally leads us a concluding question: will snowboarding ever be cool again? Personally, I have no idea, but I do know that as snowboarding gets older, the ineluctable rules of passing years stare back from the mirror: What we could get away with aged eighteen is not the same as what we can get away with now. So let’s put our metaphorical cock back in our pants, let’s stop rebelling against a non-existent nemesis, let’s give this relentless pursuit of youthful elixir a rest, and let’s enjoy snowboarding for what it is: a fun way to slide down a hill, however old you are.


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