When it was announced a few weeks back that the British Snow Tour was being updated with a new 'World Snowboard Tour' style 'star rating' system for events complete with standardised ranking points, the news was largely received positively. The organisers have developed the system in the hope that it will get more people into competitive snowboarding by giving them a way to quantitively measure, with ranking points, how well they are doing over the season whilst encouraging participation at a greater number of events. In theory it may also help spur the progression of UK snowboarding. But not everyone is seeing this new development as the saving grace to the UK's competitive snowboard scene. Former Whitelines intern Joel Plaja sent us this article looking at some of the possible pitfalls of this so-called standardisation:
Words: Joel Plaja
When the word spread earlier this month that a new British Snow Tour ranking system is about to be put in place you could almost hear a collective echoey cheer rising from inside the nations domes, as Blightys finest paused from perfecting yet another cloned front board 270 out.
"Finally", they sighed, "standard formalised recognition of the best hardway lip slide across the board", how efficient.
Ok, so this might be an exaggeration but standardisation always makes me feel a little bit wary and this is no different. Yes, it is great that effort and money is being put into the British snowboard scene and any system that pushes for positive change can only be applauded.
But we've seen this before. When Terje initiated the competition revolution at the turn of the millennium the fires of the shred hardcore were stoked. The Ticket to Ride tour was a rejection of the FIS establishment and a way for riders to create a system based on the soul of our lifestyle. I remember taping the early Arctic Challenge episodes and watching in awe as Travis Rice nollie front flipped his way to victory on that gargantuan quarter. Not a double cork in sight, and all was good with the world.
Fast forward a decade and an almost Orwellian transformation has taken place. The once "one plank good, two planks bad" attitude towards FIS regulation seems blurred and the differences fewer. Let's be honest, there is a reason magazine coverage of TTR events has dwindled in recent years and that is that nobody really cares anymore. Standardisation kills creativity and who wants to see the same thing again and again?
As the great David Benedek told WL last season: “I think right now, what they should do with slopestyle is really put more creativity into the course building, to stop slopestyle becoming freestyle skiing.
“A double cork’s fine, but watching three double corks in a row by every competitor is fucking boring... When I started, it was way more about different lines and different choices. They should build stuff that’s so odd you can’t even do a double cork – even if it’s ten whoop-di-doos into a drop down. Some crazy shit. It should be about who can ride this thing creatively."
On the flipside, is standardisation a product of the competition or the judging? It must be true that a competition can only reward creativity as much as those judging allow it to be. If it is the case that the competition organisers instruct judging to be based on creativity rather than technicality then the new ranking system could be a massive success.
There has been much debate on the state of the UK scene at the moment and I'm not going to comment on that here but I would hate to see the same happen here. I know from personal experience that the guys at the British Snow Tour have nothing but the best interest for our shred scene but we need to preserve our individuality at all costs and not become just another cog in the machine. Any situation where a group of riders dominate because their bag of tricks suit competitions would be a slippery slope. Of course it is yet to be seen, but it will be interesting to find out where the likes of the Morrow Jam and the Dalikfodda comps will fit into this new system.
Only time will tell, but it must be remembered that all riders are equal, and none more equal than others.
Will the new BST ranking system sap creativity and soul from UK competitions, indadvertedly make contest formats more formulaic and fuel the creation of comp-dominating clones? Has the World Snowboard Tour already succumbed to that very fate? On the flipside, will the new system act as a platform for getting more young people involved in competitive snowboarding and fuel the progression of UK riders?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and the our favourite will win a Whitelines mug.