Sharing The Mountain Isn’t As Easy As It Seems

June 21, 2021

Summertime in Utah and the mountains are all closed. I spend my nights staring at the ceiling and dreaming of the snow, of days spent snowboarding and skiing every day I could. I see my snowboard leaning against the wall, and for a moment feel a flash of regret for choosing one plank over two. Falling asleep, I dream of days on the mountain. I’d ride the chair with friends, and watch them all shoot off down the hill as I strap in my binding; all I can do is sigh. I tried to do it standing, believing that would make it go faster. It didn’t. I fell down, and tried to play it off like it was intentional. I can barely see my friends at this point, their skis taking them down the hill and out of sight. Sitting down now — but with a sense of urgency — I shove my right foot into its binding with some force, and step on the strap that’s supposed to hold me in place. Grunting, I thrust a mitten-clad hand into the binding, searching for that little bit of plastic that’s hiding under my foot. No luck. I rip the mitten off, exposing my bare hand to the bitter Monday-morning-in-January air. Digging around the frigid plastic of my binding, I finally track down the conniving strap and clamp it tight around my boot.

 My friends are long gone, save for that one friend that’s still learning, who’s still within eyesight. We hadn’t decided where on the mountain we were going next, so in frustration I sprung down the hill in the direction they had gone. After bombing down the run in front of me, I spot the bright-yellow jacket of a friend as they sink around yet another corner, finally giving me a slight indication as to where they are going. Out of breath, I reach the chairlift I assumed they were going to, and spot them halfway through the liftline. I unstrap and make my way through the line towards them, getting glares from other skiers as I shuffle by. Finally I reach them, accidentally knocking a friend’s skis as I slide in next to them. “Hey! Get your snowboard away from me!” he shouts. I sigh again. 

We as a snowboarding community have been stigmatized by the elitists of the skiing population for decades, really since the inception of our sport. Derogatory terms such as “knuckle-dragger” have followed us around mercilessly, digging deeper and deeper into our minds. And for what? Ten seconds of waiting on the top of the chair? Fitting less gear on the ski rack? It confuses me, but as a snowboarder who has spent their whole life on the mountain with only skiers, I take it as my personal responsibility to get to the bottom of this little “rivalry” between the two sports.

Let me address an obvious contributor to the feud, a little mountain by the name of Alta Ski Area. I’ve ventured into their grounds just once on a snowboard. I ducked a rope in Snowbird and cut down into the Wildcat area of Alta. The snowboarding was actually quite fun, but at what cost? I was met with more glares, with skiers taking wide turns to keep a cushion between them and myself. Children quizzically looked at me as I rode by. “What is he doing?” they’d ask their parents. They wouldn’t respond, nudging their children away from me and out of sight. In the parking lot, retired ski enthusiasts would remind me that I’m not supposed to be there, that Snowbird was actually a mile or so down the road. I’d just smile, because of course they were joking. They must be joking. Regardless, snowboarders have been trying to assimilate themselves into the fabric of Alta’s culture for decades, with no success. There was even a lawsuit filed against Alta by snowboarders for not allowing people onto the National Forest Land that Alta sits on… they lost. Now, I know what you’re thinking: what about Deer Valley? Aren’t they just as guilty as their conspirators at Alta? Well, sure, maybe, but a day pass there costs over $200 and lunch isn’t any cheaper, so they can keep us out. I’m okay with that. 

For some perspective on this debate, I highly suggest the video “Sh*t Alta Skiers Say About Snowboarding” on YouTube. It centers around a group of snowboarders who try to convince Alta skiers to sign a petition to allow snowboarders on the mountain. Here are a few of my favorite arguments made against snowboarders:

“Snowboarders are a-holes. Teenage a-holes, out of control!”

“I’m prejudiced against adolescent males!”

“God no, Jesus. Oh, you guys are the worst.”

“This whole country was built on discrimination.”

“They put on all their earrings and their nose rings and everything and go out snowboarding-”

Okay, so clearly there’s a bit of a cultural divide going on here. Snowboarders have somehow established themselves as nose ring-clad punk rock teenagers with no respect for the sanctity of skiing, and skiers have done little to reject this perception. Those who oppose the snowboarding community do so passionately and with vigor, even if they carry with them a bit of bias. The question now is this: how does a snowboarder such as myself change this perception? How do we reach these uninformed Alta skiers and show them we’re not all that bad? Well, sadly, we can’t. We’re not allowed on the chairs. 

Overall, I like to think that this rivalry has largely simmered down to a few casual arguments on the chairlift, that the majority of the hostility has dissipated. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still some friction between the two sports. Snowboarders will always get left behind at the top of the chairlift, and will always be forced to find another way down when the skiers start traversing too far uphill. That’s okay though, it’s healthy. As long as the two sports find a harmonious coexistence, I’m willing to make some sacrifices. Skiers will always find a way to make fun of snowboarders, and snowboarders will always find the way to ignore them. It’s a right of passage on the ski hill, a way of life; a seemingly endless debate that will likely never reach a clean resolution. I feel that one skier in “Sh*t Alta Skiers Say” summed it up best: “I’d stop and talk, but I don’t have time for stupid things.”

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