Snowboarding comps have come a long way from backhill events to spectacles like the Oakley & Shaun White Air & Style Beijing, which took place in December, 2011 in the city's iconic Bird's Nest Stadium. Photo: Nick Hamilton

The Future

Given the complexity of this issue, it is perhaps unsurprising that many snowboarders have reactedthe whole thing by bowing out of the debate and, as Sladen puts it, “focussing on the real joy of snowboarding” instead.

It might be understandable, but it’s an attitude that basically leaves the way open for the next stage of the silent takeover of snowboarding to be completed with almost no opposition, which is really the answer to the ‘why is this important?’ question. Ed Leigh puts it well:  “Feel free to take a head in the sand approach, but if you do you forego the right to complain or ever become cynical about how the sport you love has been poisoned and how great it used to be in the good old days. Because essentially, by taking that stance, you are complicit in its demise.”

And there’s a bigger picture here worth considering as well. Why should the ski industry suddenly reap the benefits of snowboarding’s increased profile and popularity? As Zack Dalton, Global Sports Marketing Manager for Oakley, puts it, “…The future of competitive snowboarding is essential to the growth of snowboarding. Having the Olympics as an outlet to showcase our sport lets us speak to the largest audience we could ever ask for, which is great for the growth of the sport, athletes, and brands involved.”

And what kind of dangerous precedent is being set in the process? Snowboarding may be the youngest of the three main board sports but it’s no exaggeration to say that how these issues are played out now will set the template for how these issues are played out in all our sports. In fact, high level discussions have already taken place between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the International Skateboarding Federation about the inclusion of skateboarding in a future Olympic Games, with both Pat McQuaid from the UCI and Gary Mead from the ISF admitting that they’re keen to avoid the mistakes made by FIS when it came to handling snowboarding. “Of course we’re aware of it” says Mead. “I believe skateboarding could be an Olympic sport in the future, and we’re talking now to make sure we don’t have a repetition of this whole scenario”.

Skateboarders talking to cyclists to help safeguard their sport? It sounds crazy—but the recent history of snowboarding proves that such pragmatic precautions are all too necessary if we want to have a say in how our sports make that niche to mainstream leap.