The New Yorker magazine’s January 25, 1999 issue features a cover image of five gnarly, grimacing, goofy footed, snowboarders terrorizing a dour, elderly, overweight, female skier.
The piece titled “Down the Hill” was created by Ian Falconer and perfectly captures anti-snowboard sentiment circa 1994. For those who don’t remember, that was year when “those wacky, crazed snowboarders invaded the slopes of America.” It was a year when shows like American Journal ran stories from journalists who had been hit and injured by “out-of-control snowboarders”. It was a time when every newspaper in America was running a story on how despised snowboarders were at resorts across the country.
Since then I thought things had changed. The instance of snowboarder vs. skier stories was starting to slow and for the most part the media was more interested in how the sport was progressing than who was pissed off at whom.
Or course, the Olympics put things back a little when Ross Rebagliati seemed to provide personal evidence that all the clichés about snowboarders were true. It also gave the media something they could really sink their teeth into: a real, live drug scandal.
Over the summer things got back on track. Dave Letterman and Conan O’Brien quit referring to “the Canadian Snowboarding team” in every monologue and all focus was on the upcoming winter. I honestly thought we’d returned to normal.
Now, after watching the 1999 Winter X Games and realizing that this is how the world is learning about snowboarding, I’m not so sure. Being subjected to the X Game’s rad-dude, slash and burn programming made me understand one thing: there is no way that an artist like Falconer could think that the average snowboarder was anything but a slobbering, linguistically impaired dolt, spraying an endless stream of hoots, hollers, and yeah dude, yos. In other words, people that a dour, elderly, overweight, female skier should be extremely scared of.
If this new era of gnarly dudeness continues we can all buckle in for a return to the battle on the slopes. You want cliché? Snowboarding is full of stereotyped caricatures right about now, you funk soul brotha. Check it out now.
Unfortunately, to me it seems a little too much like 1994.