Snowboarding: Art or Sport?

Did I ever tell you about the time I saw a UFO? Probably not. I was in Las Vegas for the trade show last March. I knew even less about snowboarding then than I do now, which is not saying much, but I was meeting some incredible people at the trade show, really cool, creative, driven people. My friends and I got in our van one night and I was informed that we were going to the Palmer/Woodstock fight. I said “cool,” but as soon as we walked in, I was ready to leave. Everyone was really, really drunk and belligerent. My friend yelled in my ear that Palmer wouldn’t be fighting but that some guy from the Suicidal Tendencies would take his place for snowboarding. After the fight started, everyone started screaming and I realized that people actually came to watch these two guys beat each other up. This was not the snowboarding that I knew and it bummed me out how much this scene WAS snowboarding. I turned around and marched out to the parking lot to wait for my friends. That’s when I saw the UFO. I was lying down on the blacktop, giggling in disbelief as three twirling lights moved at a constant speed across the clear, Las Vegas sky. . .

As long as I’ve known them, skaters have always been telling me how anti-jock they are. They never fit in with the jocks at school. They were always off, by themselves, drawing or writing grafitti. Skateboarding is an art, they always told me, and I believed them because all my skater friends are scrawny and sorta geeky. When I started snowboarding, I felt like that same vibe was there. But my skater friends try to convince me otherwise. “Snowboarders are meatheads. They’re jocks who think they’re ‘alternative,'” one friend of mine blurted out last week. We were headed north from Los Angeles towards the first snowstorms of the year. I was babbling about the idea that snowboarders have a certain identifiable aesthetic sensibility, and that I want to put some artwork in my book. I was saying that some of the work I had seen would communicate more about the culture than anything I could ever write.

“That all came from skating,” said my friend. “Snowboarders are rich, steak-eating jocks. Skaters are poor, vegetarian artists.” He explained how when he went up to Stratton last season, he went by this skate park in Bennington, Vermont called Cutting Edge before continuing on to Stratton for a weekend of snowboarding. He said all the kids at the skate park were sort of skinny and geeky, like all his friends growing up. The rest of the weekend, they stayed in a house full of snowboarders at Stratton. He said it was scary. All the snowboarders got really drunk and violent every night and do things like light each other’s hair on fire and get in fights at the 7-Eleven. “It brought me right back to high school,” said my friend. “But it wasn’t the skaters who acted like that. It was the football players.”

I admitted that his story sounded like the fight scene in Las Vegas, but the disctinction between snowboarders and skaters made no sense. I wouldn’t call Big Brother a magazine for poor, vegetarian artists.