As a long-time snowboarder, I feel especially well-equipped to engage the question, “Why has snowboarding’s popularity exploded in the last decade or so?” The rise of snowboarding, particularly in teenage riders, has largely mirrored the rise of skateboarding, the concrete equivalent of the winter sport.
Like pyramids, both contain wide bases of casual riders that taper off to a small group of professionals doing gravity defying maneuvers at the top. The two differ in that snowboarding is far more enjoyable even when enjoyed only on its base level.
On a snowboard, with some practice, almost anyone can experience the cool air fly by their face as they smoothly glide through silent drifts of snow. Skateboarding on the other hand, is relatively unrewarding when used only as a mode of transportation. Skateboarding and snowboarding are not directly competing though, since many riders embrace both, switching between the two with the changing seasons.
Snowboarding’s real competition comes from skiing, its more traditional, older brother in the snow-sports family.
While snowboarding is gaining popularity with this generation’s teenagers skiing is losing popularity with younger people. This trend is unsurprising. Skiing is complicated by its two poles and two skis while snowboarding is unified by its single board.
Skiing forces you to hold poles while also forcing you to accept the stigma of traveling down the mountain the same way that all the “old people” are. The “old people” complex is only furthered by how the media aimed at youths marginalizes skiing. While hip, young skiing groups do exist, they do so largely in the shadow of more popular snowboarding exhibits like the X-Games, where professional snowboarders like Shaun White are becoming household names.
The snowboarding industry is aware of its edgy, teen-friendly image and does everything it can to encourage it.
While most skis stick with traditional muted designs, snowboard companies compete with each other to create the most colorful and eclectic designs. This wildness transfers over to the snowboarding clothing industry, which is booming with what has become all the rage; bright, neon colors on jackets, pants, boots, bindings, and even boards. Traditional skiing brands have, for better or worse, mostly turned away from the gaudiness trend, and instead retain more traditional styles. Skiing brands have shown that they prefer to stick to their markets of old, relying on the Baby-boomer generation to pass on skiing to their children instead of fighting to win over potential snowboarders.