Words: Chris Moran.
The snowboard industry is obsessed with youth. Take this magazine for example – its pages are rammed full with whippersnappers doing unspeakably disrespectful things to their knees, hip joints, and backs. If health and safety ever found out what was going on here the whole snowboard industry would be shut down in a week. One would imagine that the defence “I didn’t pay the young man to jump down 50 stairs armed only with a basketball vest and a camcorder, I only incentivised him with free snowboarding equipment and the possibility of fame,” to be unsound.
Now, as much as I enjoy seeing people fly through the air with reckless abandon, I did think to myself the other day, “Why doesn’t Whitelines cater for the more refined rider?” After all, a recent survey discovered that around half the WL readership are between the ages of 27 and 35, work in IT, and go on snowboarding holidays 2.5 times per annum. The only ‘shit’ they’d be pulling on the Air and Style kicker is of the literal kind –from their pants – after being faced with such a monstrous 30-metre gap. Put simply: the average joe snowboarder has little in common with the idiots being published in this mag.
Now, we’re all getting older. Don’t try and deny it – we all have to go through it, and I like to think that as snowboarding approaches its middle years, it is entering what might be termed its ‘Shed Phase’. It is here that the sport – metaphorically of course – becomes more interested in growing sweet peas and tomatoes than say, binge drinking in the Pub Mont Fort, having a threesome with a couple of chalet girls and going on a midnight couloir straight-lining mission with a Dutch guy named Marlon. It is the onset of maturity, and it should be applauded.
It could be argued that instead of actually growing old, what snowboarding is really doing is increasing in size and broadening the demographic of its participants. Back in the 80s and 90s (as readers of this month’s Brits piece will note) it could be safely assumed if that you rode a snowboard, you were youthful, a bit rebellious, could projectile vomit on demand and bought enough hair dye to keep L’Oréal in business. There are still snowboarders today who could tick those particular boxes of course, but there are many more whose hair dye of choice is Grecian 2000 (or if we’re being brutally honest, a lovely shade of ‘lavender blue’), projectile vomit uncontrollably, and rebel only when the meals on wheels have forgotten the bloody brown source again. When Shaun Palmer shaved a huge krusty-the-clown-esque bald patch in his head back in 1992 he was making a confrontational statement to the world. “We are the KIDS,” his haircut said, “and we’re here to fuck the establishment.” If he rocked that same look today, it’d probably suit him.
Personally, I love the fact that snowboarding is growing up, and I strongly believe it’s for the good of the sport for two, solid reasons. The first is that snowboarding is more fun in your 30s and 40s. You can put all of the experience you’ve gained over the years back into your riding. Just look at any pro freerider: their squint-eyed demeanour is hugely captivating. They are the silverbacks of our sport. “I am a man of the mountains,” the squint seems to say, “and I’ve got a Victorinox, some wet-wipes, and a spare pair of underpants in my helipack to back that shit up.” Freestyler kids, on the other hand, look like doe-eyed cannon fodder, ready to huck their puny frames off the nearest cat track and onto the most brazen of uphill landings. They probably can’t even spell osteopathy. Meanwhile, we older crew have got the resort sports masseur on speed dial, a suitcase full of anti-inflammatories, and a family pack of Tiger Balm under the pillow. The younger guys can keep their maori tribe tattoos, I’d rather have my Norwich Union Policy number Indian-inked onto my forearm thank you very much.
You get my point: experience pays off.
I also think we ride more powder in our middle years. My theory is that this is because we’re prepared to hike more. And this in turn comes from the older gent’s wish of getting away from the crowds. I mean this in the most literal sense: to get away from all those packed bars; that damned loud music, those huge queues for the toilets (and lord knows the bladder can’t take the punishment it used to), and all those people barging past on their way to the dance floor. What better incentive to set the alarm nice and early and to head off into the backcountry for a day of slashing, digging endless holes to check the snowpack, and a delicious flask of Horlicks? If the long-term weather outlook seems good (and one must always check the shipping forecast for a reliable source), then a spot of bivouacking is never to be ruled out for the experienced rider.
Not that we should want to leave our accommodation. With cash in our pockets (I believe it is known as ‘disposable income’), the days of living in cramped apartments filled with weed smoke, snowboard magazines, sleeping bags and a stolen five-foot model of a Magnum ice-cream are long gone. Today we stay in plush hotels paid for with airline reward schemes or gold credit cards, are on the right side of room service, and know that a mini bar is to be avoided at all costs. These days, coming home from holiday with some fine local produce involves packing some wine, cheese and delicatessen jars carefully into the suitcase. In years gone by, it meant sweating profusely through customs after catching the red-eye from Amsterdam. Again, experience shows.
On the hill, we avoid the funpark because it’s a show-off arena for the fashionably retarded. If God had wanted snowboarders to dress in oversized vests he’d have put hoops above the kickers. Instead, we hang out at the cablecar station in the latest recycle-only Patagonia Gore-Tex, desperately trying to avoid spinning around too quickly in case we accidentally skin a Japanese tourist with our ice axes, crampons, and heavy-duty ice screws. God knows how all that stuff works, but if we’re going to fall down a crevasse on the Vallée Blanche, we’re going to bloody well do so in the manner of a slinky with a neck scarf on.
The second reason (yes – all of that was the first reason) is that we ain’t getting any younger. Let’s face the facts here people: as snowboarding carries on its journey through the ages, so do we. And I love that it’s getting older, bigger, and loved by so many. In turn, I love the fact that the sport is now accepted by people as a legitimate pastime for adults. “Oh, you’re off snowboarding down mountains are you? That sounds fascinating!” are comments you might actually hear these days, accompanied with a cheerful resolve. Imagine the look one might get from an in-law (for example) saying “Andrea tells me you’re the Raleigh Grifter world skidding champion? Tell me again, how many panini cards do you need to make it sound like a real motorbike?”
The only thing that remains to be rectified is the amount of coverage we older riders get. Not specifically pictures of us doing two-foot no-grabs off a cornice of course (if you want that, I suggest you subscribe to Document), that would be hideous. What I mean is: why aren’t there more articles for the more discerning snowboarder? So come on people! Get writing in to the Whitelines editor and let’s turn things around here. Who else wants to see some Roxy Over 40s pictures? Equipment tests featuring pain-relief gels, ibuprofen tablets and the Alps’ best chiropractor? A hotel bed softness chart? How about a ‘how to’ series featuring grabs that don’t involve bending down to touch the bloody board? In fact, lets go the whole hog here: sod your bloody DVD cover-mounts, what I really want to see on the cover of this magazine are vegetable seed bags, ear-plugs and Airfix kits.
Whitelines, I want you to bow to the grey pound. Contravene known magazine by-laws. Rock and roll. Live a little. Let go. Wear your denim top with your jeans. Pull your trousers high enough so the belt is on the waist. Smarten up your act. Get a proper job. Be a proper magazine. Get a splel check. And for God’s sake, do a best mountain restaurant review.
‘I’m just off to the shed’ – Some of the riders who are starting to enjoy the finer things in life.
Has been riding since the ‘80s (the 1880s that is), and is still rocking a sweet Quiksilver and Nissan deal. Also has a smoking pipe collection and a tartan rug in the back of his X-Trail.
Picture 1- Andy Wright
Picture 2- Jeff Curtis
Picture 3- Geoff Andruik
Picture 4- Nate Christenson