Definition: Snowboarder

By Pete Cambell
Picture by Sam Baldwin
Published January 2006

This guy is definatley a snowboarder

Whilst surfing through the plethora of channels on my digi-box, I heard the words: "Introducing Jamie - a snowboarding civil engineer" emanate from my T.V. and my ears pricked up. A clip of a brightly lit and pristinely white snow dome in Castleford, UK followed.

This might be interesting, I thought, expecting to see someone ride down the Castleford slope with consummate ease and maybe a little trickery. I was, however, to be sadly disappointed; Jamie donned his hired skidlid and proceeded to flail and fall down the slope much to the amusement of the watching public.

Maybe I should have been congratulating him on trying to learn to snowboard, but I couldn't help feeling a bit miffed; how could he be introduced as a 'snowboarding civil engineer' when it was obvious, even to the untrained eye, that these were his first attempts on a plank of wood?

Was it just a T.V. stunt to make him and the programme more interesting? If so, why, and at whose suggestion - his or the broadcasting corporation? It dangerously started the cogs in my brain working…when can you actually class yourself as a snowboarder?

I fired up my laptop and entrusted Google to describe a snowboarder. Spat back on the screen was a Collins Oxford Dictionary definition:

snowboard: a board resembling a small surfboard and equipped with bindings, used for descending snow-covered slopes on one's feet but without ski poles.
intr.v. snow·board·ed, snow·board·ing, snow·boards
To use a snowboard.
snow'board'er n.

So a snowboarder, according to the dictionary definition, is someone who uses a snowboard. I may be messing with karma here, but can the average British based rider who may dream of snow and have all the flashy gear associated with boarding, but who, in reality, works 9-5 for 50 weeks a year really call themselves a 'snowboarder'. I wanted to look for further characterisation of the word 'snowboarder'.

Back onto Google, and an interesting site spat back was 'The Urban Dictionary', where people submit their own meaning of a word. Amongst the usual skier/snowboarder bickering of, "a sport that skiers are too afraid to try because they are a bunch of pussy ass bitches", one simply stood out.

This one definition stated that "A snowboarder is someone who doesn't just own a snowboard but lives the snowboard culture".  But what, you may ask, is the snowboard culture?

The answer lies in any one of the masses of snowboard DVDs. These films tend to document friends who share the same passion for all things snowboarding. You see them messing about and egging each other on, both on the hill and during down time, undertaking numerous road trips in search of the goods. The camaraderie and love they have for the sport and the fun they have doing it just oozes from the screen. I felt I was getting closer to the meaning of being a 'snowboarder'.

When I asked the masses on a forum of UK riders "when can you class yourself as a snowboarder?" I got a fair mix of opinions. Some forum members ferociously defended themselves as true snowboarders. But why? Perhaps the perception that snowboarding is an "extreme" sport, and therefore that those who do it are cool and exciting, makes people want to have a label to feel part of a community. But would those with an interest in say…gardening, introduce themselves as a 'gardener', or those that tinkle the ivories in their spare time, a 'pianist'. I doubt it.

I am one of those who work 9-5 behind my computer screen. Yes, I am more often than not caught reading the forums and browsing the net for holidays and bargain boarding gear, but I am not actually riding; I therefore don't class, nor introduce myself as a 'snowboarder' from day to day.

I am only a 'snowboarder' when I am on the hill and choose to put on one rather than two planks of wood. People who know me, even vaguely, know about my passion for the sport, as it's one of the things I religiously talk and read about, but I don't need to shout about it with a label. To me, true snowboarders don't feel the need to label themselves. The way in which they act and live their life says more than a word ever can.

I believe only a lucky few can really be classed as 'snowboarders'. My definition would go something like this:

intr.v. snow·board·ed, snow·board·ing, snow·boards
1. Professionals
a. Professional or sponsored riders, living the snowboarding culture. These individuals are paid or given free gear in return for pimping the brand in competitions, photos or films.
b. Those who teach snowboarding on the hill, on dry slope or fake snow.

2. 'Non-pro's' who put time in on the hill on a regular basis
a. Those who spend months on the mountain or are lucky enough to chase the snow year round e.g. chalet maids, snowboard technicians.
b. Those who religiously visit their church of dendix/snowflex/fake snow (delete where appropriate) in their spare time.
snow'board'er n.

Maybe I should lighten up and embrace those newbies and desk-based riders who have seen the light and taken up such a wonderful sport, but I can't welcome them as 'snowboarders' as soon as they strap on a plank. They have their initiation to pass first….

Pete Campbell, born and bred in snowless Nottingham began skiing at age 9. It took till December 2000 for him to try his hand at boarding, whilst on his future wife's first skiing trip. He is an active member of the Goneboarding forums where he is a moderator and he recently became ASBI qualified enabling him to teach in the domes and on the dryslopes of the UK.