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Article Title: Skiing and Snowboarding: Hitting the Slopes in Harmony?Edition: December 2000
Category: Outdoors/Natural History
Author: Heather Loverin
Nose Ring? Meet Earmuff.
While they may not be slope soulmates yet, snowboarders and skiers are finally getting to know each other. And while stereotypes still exist, animosity that the groups have traditionally harbored toward each other seems to be in decline.
Skiers still dominate the slopes. The Vermont Ski Areas Association in Montpelier says that roughly 25 to 27 percent of people hitting the slopes are snowboarders. And while several years ago the sport really took off, it has leveled off in recent years, the association says.
But both 'boarders and people in the ski industry say that snowboarding, and snowboarders in particular, are becoming more accepted in the ski community.
Kevin Jacques of Williamstown said he thought that boarding and skiing enthusiasts are beginning to understand each other.
"I think they are starting to come together. Skiers are trying it (snowboarding). More of that is happening now. It's becoming more accepted ... Skiers and snowboarders really aren't that different and I don't think the stereotypes are fair."
"We are passionate about the same thing, tearing down the mountain, riding the slopes, why should we argue?" asks Andrew Lafrenz a spokesman for Sugarbush Resort in Warren.
It's a feud that has existed since snowboarding's birth roughly fifteen years ago. There were labels and animosity, and resorts found themselves in a quandary: could skiers and snowboarders ride the same mountain in harmony?
According to ski industry executives, the majority of snowboarders were young, generally 15 to 25 years old, and male. Their style of dress is different, typically described as "grunge" or "punk." In the eyes of skiers, snowboarders were rebellious renegades. And snowboarders didn't mind the notion. After all, the sport in a lot of ways is all about being different.
Many skiers saw snowboarders as rude, crude, nasty, and vulgar. They have been accused of causing accidents with skiers, blocking trails, and carving up snow so much that skiers couldn't ski. Essentially, they were moving in on skier's territory, and skiers didn't like it.
Snowboarders in return, had their own stereotypes about skiers. They were conservative and elite. They belonged to an exclusive club; they were rich yuppies lacking a cool style. Snowboarders accused skiers of being in their way and excluding them on the slopes. Snowboarders felt they weren't allowed the freedom to develop their style.
But that all seems to be changing a bit.
"Most people look at snowboarders like they're punks, but a lot of my friends board and I know that's not true," said Kylie Lord, a student at the University of Vermont. "People think that snowboarders are trouble and I'm not trouble," she says. Lord had been a skier for years, but then switched over to 'boarding.
"There's more action with snowboarding, more adrenaline. Skiing just got boring," Lord said. And she isn't alone.
"There's just more freedom associated with it (snowboarding)," says Jacques of Williamstown. Like Lord, Jacques also was a skier before he began to snowboard.
"I just figured I'd stay away from snowboarders," he said. He said snowboarders exuded a "get-out-of-my-way, young punk attitude." Then he tried snowboarding, and was hooked.
Eric Shute, of Rutland, also is a "convert" from skiing to snowboarding. For much of the same reasons as Lord and Jacques, he shied away from the sport.
"I really didn't like them because of the way they dressed, that style really wasn't me. I saw them as troublemakers because I didn't know them. Now I snowboard and it's cool. I think they are really cool people. The divide between the two is really beginning to go away."
In Marketing, Still a Divide
While up on the slopes skiers and snowboarders may be coexsisting and maybe even getting along here and there, some stores are apparently conscious of the differences in their marketing.
In the snowboard section at the Downhill Edge in Burlington, the background music is alternative, with bands like Nine Inch Nails and Everclear. Store spokesperson Linda Fickbahm said the clothing in the boarding section is different, with a younger, trendier look that snowboarders are more apt to purchase.
But merchants say it's harder now than it used to be to tell a snowboarder from a skier when they walk in the store.
Julie Lawler at the Skirack in Burlington, said that while the snowboarding equipment is in a different part of the store, she said it's not always easy to differentiate between the snowboarders and skiers when they come in.
Ryan Crete, owner of the B-Side, a snowboarding and skateboard store in Burlington said: "I'd say there's not a stereotype anymore. Everyone is checking it (snowboarding) out."
Industry, Too, Says Sports Melding
Lafrenz, of Sugarbush, notes that snowboarding has actually enriched the sport of skiing. He notes that the development of "skiboarding" in which enthusiasts use twin tipped skis, and short skis, where skiers can do tricks like snowboarders are clear and positive influences from snowboarding.
Even the clothing snowboarders wear -- the younger, hipper look -- is becoming popular among skiers. The styles are merging between snowboarding and skiing, causing the gap to close, LaFrenz said.
"Snowboarding is expanding skiing's horizons," said John Stebbons at the Vermont Ski Areas Association. Barb Thomke, head of public relations at Smugglers Notch Resort in Jeffersonville, says that they even encourage their employees to try both sports so they can get a better feel for them and better serve their guests.
Mad River Glen, in Waitsfield, doesn't allow snowboarders, citing safety concerns. But Eric Friedman, the marketing director, wants to be clear they have no beef with snowboarders.
"It hasn't really caused us any problems. We have Sugarbush right nearby so we can always refer snowboarders over there," Friedman said. Friedman also noted that he feels that only a minority of snowboarders fit the stereotype and that most of them are very respectful of skiers.
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