Once upon a time, someone somewhere stood sliding sideways down a slope of white … and it was good. Word spread quickly and people were drawn to sliding sideways in snow. They were snowboarders and shared the joy sliding brought them with anyone who would listen (except Old Man Skiing, who only listened later when money started changing hands).

And the people listened.

And snowboarded.

Years went by, and the gospel of snowboarding spread, a counterculture-a counter-lifestyle. The people held the sport close to their hearts. One day they awoke to find snowboarding had become a sport bigger than they ever dreamed. It spread worldwide, through “alternative” marketing and fun-all the way to Wall Street. Like a few other young independent sports used by the business world, snowboarding quickly became an icon attached to a generation.

And the people grumbled, “This will change our sport forever.”

Meanwhile …

On February 12, 1998 riders all over the world held their breath to witness snowboarding’s long-awaited Olympic debut. It seemed everyone who had ever bought a lift ticket was involved. Snowboarding captured the hearts of millions-each coveting a piece of it, and mainstream attention still heated conversations.

Here at home, controversy stirred. People had strong opinions. People had apathy.

And again, some people grumbled, “This will change our sport forever.”

Through all the contention, people came together to watch what would happen in Nagano, but snowboarding never made it into prime time. Instead, America watched (or sat through) their favorite four-footer, Tara Lipinski, skate her way to guest appearances on David Letterman and The Today Show.

Heavy snows in Japan caused skiing to preempt snowboarding on television, which meant none of the halfpipe footage aired.

And the people grumbled.

Meanwhile …

The world wasn’t watching as some of the sport’s best riders gathered outside of Nagano (a good 8,000 miles or so) in the small resort of Snow Summit in Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains. They were snowboarders from different parts of the country and different parts of the world. They carried no flags, they did not wear official uniforms, and the only judging came from the cat calls of their peers when a trick was the stomped.

Spontaneous sessions went on into the night.

And the riders howled.

Everyone at home who’d held their breath to see the big show-the masses who look after the collective fate of snowboarding-missed it. Winter visited Southern California. A show was right here at home, and nobody knew it. Snowboarding for fun’s sake, politics not required.