winter 2005 030

Shredding Sociology: The World’s Intellectuals Explain the State of Skiing

Part One: Sociology’s New School: Dr. Holly Thorpe, PhD. 

In this two part series, we move away from looking at industry moguls and ski celebrities and towards sport academics to find out what’s going on in the world of skiing. Because  let’s face it, the so-called “New School of Skiing” doesn’t spend that much time in school. We searched for University Professors, armed with PhDs, and years of studying human nature and it’s interactions with action sports. The result is a new perspective on ski culture and its industry.

Our first installment features Dr. Holly Thorpe, PhD.

Holly is a Senior Lecturer and researcher at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Her area of expertise includes the sociology of youth culture, action sports, travel and tourism, gender, and social theory.

She is especially suited to being an expert on this topic, as she spent the better part of the 1990s as a competitive snowboard athlete, doing back to back seasons between North America and New Zealand. Holly has also written a number of books on the subject, such as Snowboarding Bodies in Theory and Practice and her newest publication, Transnational Mobilities in Sports Action Cultures. She is currently earning her degree as world’s greatest mom. She put her newborn down to answer a few questions.

Doglotion: Briefly give a description on your academic background.

Holly: I am a sociologist of sport and physical culture. I completed my PhD in 2007, and have been working at the University of Waikato in New Zealand since then. Here I teach courses such as ‘Social and Cultural Aspects of Sport and Leisure’, ‘Sport, Media and Society’ and ‘Sporting Bodies and Movement Culture’, I have also taught a number of sport psychology courses. In 2012 I was a Fulbright Scholar at Georgetown University (Washington, DC) where I taught a course on sport and national identity. Basically, my aim with teaching is to help students develop the tools to be able to look at their sporting lives differently, to understand how sport and movement cultures fit within the broader social, cultural, political and economic context, and consider the multiple forms of power that operate on and through our moving bodies.

My PhD was a sociological investigation of snowboarding, and particularly women’s participation in the sport, culture and industry. My interest in this topic came from my own lived experiences as a semi-professional snowboarder. Before commencing my PhD I had done eight back-to-back winters between New Zealand and North America (mostly Mt Hood Meadows in Oregon and Whistler), and I often sat on the chair lift and found myself asking sociological-type questions about what I was seeing around me. I approached my study with the idea that women’s participation in snowboarding was different to any other sport I had been involved in, and I wanted to better understand the (seemingly) unique gender relations in snowboarding culture.

My PhD led to lots of other exciting research opportunities. I published Snowboarding Bodies in Theory and Practice in 2011. This is a sociological analysis of global snowboarding culture based on seven years extensive research in six countries. It examined the lifestyle, sport, industry, media, gender relations, travel and tourism, and physical experience, of snowboarding in both historical and contemporary contexts. I also co-edited the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Extreme Sports in 2007 (note this title was imposed upon us by the publishers and we critically unpack the term ‘extreme’ in the book) and the Greenwood Extreme Sport series, which includes books targeted at high school students on BASE jumping, surfing, snowboarding, climbing and skateboarding, that examine the history, technological developments, science, key people and places, in these sports.

Over the past few years, my research has expanded beyond snowboarding to focus on physical youth cultures more broadly, and particularly action sport cultures. I have examined the incorporation of action sports into the Olympics, and the growth of action sport for development organizations such as Skateistan, Surf Aid International, and Protect Our Winters. My latest book titled Transnational Mobilities in Action Sport Cultures has just come out. This book examines how transnational action sport corporations, mega events and media spectacles, the international travel patterns of athletes, tourists and migrants, and the high use of social media among participants, are contributing to the emergence of a transnational imaginary within and across action sport communities. Each chapter offers case studies and site-specific vignettes from an array of action sports and around the world. Ultimately, this book illustrates how corporeal, virtual and imagined mobilities and connections across borders are influencing not only how youth are practicing and consuming sport and physical activity, but also how such processes are informing their sense of space, place, identity, politics and belonging.

 

holly training for a big air competition prior to commencing her research in 2004

Holly researching.

Doglotion: How does this relate to the sport of skiing?

Holly: I see a lot of parallels between snowboarding and skiing cultures. While their histories are unique, they are intimately connected. Despite some tensions in the past, the snow sport culture no longer consists of two clearly opposing groups, skiers and snowboarders. Rather, the alpine snow culture is increasingly divided into styles of participation (i.e., freestyle, big mountain, alpine) with each group sharing terrain as well as styles of talk and dress, training methods and so on. So, while my early research focused on snowboarding, it was always in relation to skiing. Also, my more recent work on action sport mobilities includes a chapter that focuses on the transnational mobilities of ski and snowboard instructors and those who have made a career out of doing back-to-back winters. There is also a chapter that looks at the everyday politics within ‘transnational action sport destinations’ such as Whistler, Chamonix and Queenstown, focusing on the interactions between different groups (e.g., tourists, ‘one season wonders’, national and international migrants, longtime ‘locals’) in various spaces. So, I think my research is very related to the sport of skiing, particularly freestyle and backcountry skiers, who often share similar lifestyles to other committed action sport participants.

Doglotion: Skiing and snowboarding are sports that millions of people do for recreation. Some make it a lifestyle. They pay high rent for small ski town homes and work low-paying, evening jobs so they can ski with their friends a hundred days per year. Incomes are low but the sport and it’s community makes morale high. Is sacrifice (such as this financial one) important in turning a sport into a passion?

This is actually the focus of one of my chapters in my newest book in which I examine the sacrifices made (particularly economic and sometimes educational) and skills developed by highly committed action sport participants in pursuit of a particular lifestyle. I explain how demonstrations of commitment to the lifestyle (e.g., lots of back-to-back seasons) earn cultural participants status from their peers. I also examine the hierarchies that develop in snow towns based on demonstrations of commitment:

“Action sport migrants arriving in a transnational action sport destination for their first season will typically be at the bottom of the ‘pecking order’ in terms of available accommodation and employment, and perhaps access to other limited resources, such as the best quality waves and/or powder runs. Similar hierarchies are practised and reinforced in the international work place of the ski resort. Stuart, a ski instructor who has spent many years working for the same resorts in New Zealand and California, is very aware of the hierarchical 3   system that gives preference to ‘experience, qualifications, time working for a particular resort’, which then influence the amount and quality of the work allocated to each employee (pc, 2011). But, due to the transient nature of most action sport destinations and businesses, opportunities for employment and accommodation typically expand with each consecutive season. Those migrants who stay for the off season, or return for subsequent seasons, gain cultural and social capital within the local community and thus access to the more desirable, and highly sought-after, forms of accommodation (that is, affordable, close to facilities) and employment (more flexible work hours, higher wages).”

 holly training at Coronet Peak in 2004

Dr. Thorpe, hiking the Cornet Peak halfpipe

Doglotion: In ski movies you always see someone being dropped off by helicopter on top of an Alaskan peak. For all but an elite group, this is impossible. Heli-skiing costs around a thousand dollairs per day, and that doesn’t even include getting to the mountains. Are ski movies like this an opportunity for the working class to escape, much like watching another sort of fantasy movie, or are they what (the French Sociologist and Philosopher) Pierre Bourdieu would refer to as symbolic violence towards anyone without financial means?

Holly: I have used Pierre Bourdieu’s work a lot in my research, particularly to examine the hierarchies and power relations between different groups within action sport cultures. Adopting a Bourdieudian approach, we could certainly see heli-skiing as a practice of ‘distinction’ in that it clearly distinguishes those with enough ‘economic capital’ (paying customers) or ‘cultural capital’ (professional skiers) from those who are unable to access such opportunities. In fact, back in the 1980s Bourdieu himself identified the act of alpine skiing an act of class distinction, clearly separating those wealthy enough to access often expensive and elitist ski resorts from those who are not. Symbolic violence is another really interesting Bourdieudian concept, but I probably wouldn’t use it as you suggest above. Here is an excerpt from my first book, Snowboarding Bodies in Theory and Practice, in which I use this concept to examine gender relations in snowboarding:

“Female boarders who embody the legitimate traits of physical prowess, skill, risk-taking and courage can earn symbolic capital in the snowboarding culture. Yet my analysis reveals some gender disparities in the distribution and transferability of symbolic capital. In the contemporary snowboarding culture, the distribution of capital remains limited and largely determined by a male valuation system. Arguably, Bourdieu’s theories of symbolic violence and misrecognition help explain the subordination of women’s activity, and the subsequent unequal distribution of symbolic capital in the snowboarding culture. According to Bourdieu, symbolic violence is the imposition of systems of symbolism and meaning upon groups or classes in such a way that they are experienced as legitimate. This has been achieved through a process Bourdieu calls ‘misrecognition’, whereby ‘power relations are perceived not for what they objectively are but in a form which renders them legitimate in the eyes of the beholder’. As the following comments from Moriah illustrate, some women accept the biological explanations offered for their ‘inferior’ performances, even when there is no validity for such explanations: ‘Boys are always stronger than girls… no matter what, and to be a really good snowboarder you need to be strong… strong girls are never going to be as strong as the top guys. Jana Meyhen, she’s the raddest girl snowboarder there is. For us girls, we are like “Wow she can do that?” But to the boys, she ain’t shit. I mean she’s good for a girl but there is no girl that boys can think “Wow she’s as good as I am”’. Phillipa also identifies biological differences in risk-taking and physical prowess in snowboarding: ‘If I think about the whole girl/boy thing, the only thing I find most frustrating is the physical element…not pushing yourself or going to the same limits as boys. I always admired how boys could have less fear. Girls have so much more self-preservation’. Even though some female snowboarders (e.g., Olympians, professionals) display particular combinations of force and skill much more effectively than many male boarders, the persistence of beliefs in ‘normal’ differences in physical ability reinforces males’ ability to accumulate symbolic capital and undermines women’s participation in snowboarding.

Symbolic violence in the snowboarding culture not only reinforces the assumption that male boarders are more deserving of symbolic capital, but also their ability to convert symbolic to economic capital. For example, when Transworld Snowboarding recently asked readers to respond to the question, ‘should female riders get paid as much as the dudes [male snowboarders]?’ most correspondents emphasized male superiority: ‘guys can throw bigger tricks, so why not pay them more’ (Chelsea, Ontario, Canada); ‘If the girls are as good as the guys, then yes. But if they’re not, then to hell with this equality crap’ (Sean, Florida, USA). Bourdieu’s notion of symbolic violence thus helps shed light on snowboarding as a male dominated sport in which male views tend to have the most power to construct experiences and opportunities. Yet female snowboarders are not passive in these processes; some actively negotiate space within the snowboarding field via an array of embodied practices and strategies. Some women, for example, are drawing upon their gender and femininity as a unique source of capital.”

 Christina Lustenberger has a fast, smooth, feminine, light touch on her skis – not masculine muscle.
She doesn’t shred, she dances.

Skiing is the whitest sport in the world. Ski towns are primarily located in white countries and cater to white clientele. There is also a group of African-Americans in the States known as the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), who vacation to Aspen and sometimes Whistler. Can increased diversity like this eventually change the perception of skiing, or does the distribution of wealth have to be the changing factor?

Holly: Here are a few comments from my book Snowboarding Bodies that speak to this issue. While my arguments are specific to snowboarding, I think we see many similarities in the freestyle skiing culture:

“The majority of snowboarders are white (89 per cent)[i] and from the middle- and upper-classes (this is even more true for skiers). Despite a general lack of awareness of, or concern about, class related issues among snowboarders, some boarders do recognize class dimensions in the sport. Zane surprised me in an interview when he declared: ‘I think snowboarding is still a rich kid sport; It’s really hard for poor kids to come up in snowboarding and get a chance to ride enough to be good’ (pc, November 2005). Continuing, he revealed:

“My parents weren’t well off, so when I started snowboarding, I had a job just so I could afford to go riding. We [my brother and I] definitely found ways around the money though, we would drive 3.5 hours to go riding with fifty bucks in our pockets, find a cheap hotel or sleep in the car, scam lift tickets…we’d do anything to do what we loved (pc, November 2005).”

Marc Frank Montoya, the first American-Mexican professional snowboarder, is critical of the whiteness and exclusivity of snowboarding:

“There are so few Latinos involved in the sport because they are in the cities, and no one is up in the mountains. Also, the ones that are close to the slopes don’t have the money to go snowboarding. It’s an outrageous sport—mad expensive—and few people have access to the equipment and lift tickets. It’s almost a rich man’s sport, pretty much like skiing (cited in Rossi, 2002, para. 1).”

In another article he complains about expensive lift-tickets that exclude the lower classes from the resorts: ‘They charge like 50 or 60 bucks. That’s how they [resorts] keep the city kids from going up and snowboarding’ (cited in Yant, 2001a, para. 13). As a lower-class youth, Montoya went to great lengths to snowboard, admitting, ‘I jacked [stole] a snowboard and I’d clip tickets. And I’d jack gas. I stole my food everyday on the way up there. Went to 7-Eleven, jacked a bunch of Lunchables – threw ‘em down my pants’ (cited in Yant, 2001a, para. 13).[ii] Despite a six-figure salary, Montoya still ‘clips tickets’ in order to not ‘let them get away with that bullshit’ (cited in Yant, 2001a, para. 13). Nonetheless, such acts of symbolic resistance tend to be isolated in the snowboarding culture; certainly there are no signs of a revolution among lower-class snowboarders” (p. 61).

“Young, white, heterosexual males continue to hold the dominant position within snowboarding culture, yet various ‘other’ groups also negotiate space on the margins of the field (e.g., older, gay, disabled, or non-white snowboarders). For example, Lance, a 55 year-old Black American, describes feeling like ‘a duck out of water’ while on a snowboarding trip with a group of colleagues because he didn’t have the right equipment nor the embodied knowledge that would enable him to contribute to conversations about snow conditions etc (cited in Hua, 2006, para. 9). Similarly, on a blog titled ‘Stuff white people like: #31 snowboarding’, Adisa recalled taking a snowboarding lesson with a group of Black friends where ‘the white instructor…frustrated by how slowly we were picking up the basics…said (I kid you not): ‘Come on guys! You people are natural athletes. This should be easy!’ We laughed about it then, as we do now’ (Stuff White, 2008, para. 3). Some ‘other’ marginal participants find pleasure in disrupting stereotypes of snowboarders as young, white, heterosexual males. Marcia, a 58 year-old Canadian snowboarder, for example, has been boarding for more than 12 years and enjoys ‘surprising people when I take off my helmet and show my long silver hair’ (pc, February 2004) (also see Chapter Six and Chapter Seven).

Marginal participants often have limited access to capital accumulation within the snowboarding field, yet many find the support they need to enjoy their snowboarding experience by forming social groups (e.g., Black Avalanche), creating websites (e.g., www.graysontrays.com; www.outboarder.com), and establishing specialized instructional programs (e.g., Adaptive snowboarding programs are available for individuals with various disabilities at many ski resorts), teams (e.g., First Nations Snowboard Team, a Canadian organization that supports Aboriginal competitive snowboarders and qualified instructors) and organizations (e.g., Alpino, an organization founded in Colorado that strives to get more people of color to the mountains for both recreation and work). To support the participation of gay snowboarders, some have formed clubs and websites, such as Outryders (www.outryders.org) and OutBoard (www.outboard.com). The latter has almost 4000 members in 50 American states and 27 countries. The key point here, however, is that the field of snowboarding is comprised of a number of groups, all of which give value to the practiced, boarding body in subtly different ways. These groups have distinct styles, practices, institutions and practitioners with subtle, but important, distinctions in their habitus that command different degrees of capital conversion. In the second part of this chapter I explore some of the distinctive tastes and styles embodied by participants from various positions within the field in their attempts to preserve, negotiate or resist the configuration of power” (pp. 119-120).

Doglotion: Professional skiing isn’t acting, but it can be a portrayal of something a little different than what is true. What looks like an amazing day of skiing may actually be a day of doing one turn for the camera, then waiting twenty minutes for the sun to come out again. There is also a certain image that comes with the lifestyle marketing (including social media) of an athlete. Is there danger in the blurring of the lines between someone’s personal life and their professional personality?

Holly: Many films glorify risk-taking and injuries (just think of the slam section in so many action sport films), and I think this can be quite problematic for younger viewers who aren’t able to distinguish between performance and reality. Younger skiers see these professionals as their heroes and role models, but they often aren’t able to recognize that their film parts are based on highly calculated risk-taking and skills that take many years to develop. It is worrying when young participants go out onto the mountain and try to copy their ‘heroes’ in the backcountry or terrain parks. Also, when these films romanticize the hedonistic lifestyle (partying, drinking, pranks) and exaggerate the ‘personalities’ of the professional riders/skiers, this can also be very influential on younger viewers who then think this is the only way to be a skier (or snowboarder).

Doglotion: Why is it important that females are now a part of action sports?

Holly: My latest project is actually an edited book about the growth of women in action sports culture, and the ways girls and women negotiate space in these traditionally male-dominated sports. Here is an excerpt from our proposal:

“As a result of the increasing visibility of female role models, the expanding female niche market, and opportunities for female-only lessons, camps and competitions, the female action sport demographic has grown over the past two decades. For example, during the early 2000s, snowboarding, kayaking and skateboarding, were among the fastest growing sports for American women. In 2004 female skateboarders constituted approximately 25.3 per cent (or 2.6 million) of the 10.3 million skateboarders in the United States, up from just 7.5 per cent in 2001, and the number of American women who surf every day grew 280 per cent between 1999 and 2003. The athleticism of core female participants is now highly visible on the mountains, in the waves, rivers and lakes, and in the media, and there is some evidence to suggest that boys and men are adjusting, and in some cases, radically altering, their perceptions of women’s abilities and capabilities. Perhaps in part due to these changes, action sports are attracting female participants from varying age groups, sexualities, abilities and levels of commitment, and from different cultures and ethnicities.

The increasingly visible role of female action sport athletes in broader society has further contributed to the popularity of these sports among women. The inclusion of females in globally televised events including the X-Games and Olympics (skiing, mountain-biking, kayaking, snowboarding), blockbuster movies focusing on female surfers and inline-skaters such as Blue Crush (2002) and Brink (1998), and the representation of female action sport athletes in the mass media (e.g., Vogue, Seventeen, Glamour, Sports Illustrated for Women), have all added to the visibility and legitimization of women in action sport. Yet, some female action sports athletes are more visible in popular culture than others. For example, female snowboarders have been included in the X-Games since its inception in 1997, whereas female skateboarders and freestyle skiers were excluded until 2002 and 2005 respectively; women continue to be barred from all motorbike and snowmobile events. Thus, while the number of female participants has exploded in some action sports, others remain the exclusive domain of males.

Since the mid 1990s, researchers have dedicated considerable attention to gender politics in action sport cultures. Sociologists have investigated the multiple (and often contradictory) ways women negotiate space within male-dominated action sport cultures such as adventure racing, skateboarding, sky-diving, snowboarding, snowboarding, surfing  and windsurfing. To facilitate their analyses of the complex gender practices, performances and politics operating within action sport cultures, researchers have engaged an array of theoretical perspectives, including hegemonic masculinity, various strands of feminism (i.e., liberal, radical and third-wave feminism) and, more recently, some post-structural feminist engagements with the work of Bourdieu, Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault. With distinct understandings of power, structure, agency, and resistance, the various theoretical perspectives have facilitated different insights into the place of action sport bodies in the “reproduction of social and sexual structures” (Shilling, 2005, p. 198), as well as the various forms of agency available to some female action sport participants within existing social, economic and cultural structures.”

Girl powder.

Doglotion: Many action sports, such as skiing, mountain biking or kite surfing, are incredibly expensive to get into. However, you can buy a used skateboard for fifty bucks and ride it for free. Greater still is parkour. Is there hope in extreme/action sports being attainable for any nation at any income level? 

Holly: To date, action sports have been a predominantly Western phenomenon. Despite increasing diversity, many action sports (such as BMX, surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing) have been dominated by young, white, heterosexual, privileged men in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, as well as some Asian countries (particularly Japan). Moreover, with many action sports having roots in North America, and the majority of transnational action sport-related media and companies based in the United States, action sports have become closely interconnected with American popular culture, fashion and music, and particularly the ‘cool’ California youth culture aesthetic. For some – though certainly not all – this is part of the appeal. With the development of highly mediated action sport events such as the X Games, Gravity Games, and the inclusion of action sports into the Olympics, highly evocative images of (predominantly North American and European) action sport athletes riding waves, carving down snowy mountains, leaping across buildings and grinding empty swimming pools are reaching even the remotest of destinations. With the rapid expansion of the Internet and the global reach of transnational action sport companies, media and events, combined with the increasingly ‘exotic’ travel patterns of action sport athletes and enthusiasts, children and youth throughout the Eastern world are also exposed to action sports. While some reject them as ‘crazy American sports’, others adopt and reappropriate these activities in relation to their local physical and social environments. In the Arab world, for example, surfing is gaining popularity in Iran and Bangladesh; Pakistani youth are taking up skateboarding in growing numbers; and sand-boarding is a popular activity among privileged youth (and ex-pats) in Saudi Arabia. There are also a number of action sport for development organizations such as Skateistan that are doing amazing work in using skateboarding as a vehicle to provide safe spaces for underprivileged children and youth in Afghanistan (and now also Cambodia) to participate in both skateboarding and educational programs that, according to Tony Hawk, ‘give life skills and hope for the future’. Skateistan focuses particularly on providing opportunities to marginalized children and youth such as girls, street-children, and those with disabilities.

In some of my recent research I have also examined the growth of parkour in the Middle East, and particularly in Gaza. Parkour is arguably one of the most accessible action sports. In contrast to skateboarding, surfing or sand-boarding, which require (often expensive) equipment (such as skate-, surf- and sand-boards) and access to specific types of environments (smooth concrete, waves, sand dunes), parkour requires little more than a pair of shoes fit for moving efficiently within the urban environment, and when training in the sand dunes – as is common in many Arab countries – the activity can be performed barefoot. Today, groups of (mostly young male) traceurs and free-runners can be found in Bahrain, Doha, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Almost all have Facebook pages with the number of followers ranging from 300 (Parkour Libya Free) to 42,000 (Parkour Egypt).

Based on my interviews with parkour participants in Gaza, Egypt and Kuwait, I identify parkour as a form of ‘everyday politics’ being expressed by Arab youth in their attempts to ‘reclaim youthfulness’ through physical play, self-expression and public performance amidst ongoing authoritarian rule. Parkour is a subtly anti-authoritarian gesture in that youth seek to negotiate physical and symbolic space in local and global (virtual) communities as the Middle East continues the messy process of integration into the global economic system. Moreover, my work with youth in war-torn Gaza revealed the value of parkour for helping participants’ develop resilience and coping with the frustrations, fears, anxieties and pains of living in the narrow, politically and militarily confined Gaza Strip.

Parkour: one of the safer activities in Gaza.

Doglotion: Why am I afraid to even type the word extreme?

Holly: Various categorizations have been used to describe these activities, including extreme, lifestyle and alternative sports. In my work I use the term action sports, as it is the preferred term used by committed participants (particularly in North America), many of whom (including you) resent the label ‘extreme sports’ which they feel was imposed upon them by transnational corporations and media conglomerates during the mid- and late 1990s.

Doglotion: Freeride culture fashion has resembled street culture for decades, even though most ski kids grow up in the suburbs. Clothing is often over-sized, with faces covered. When big air competitors come across the finish line, they often make hand signals you would otherwise see in rap videos. Does the lack of other ethnicities allow white people to get away with acting like we’re not?

Holly: The freeride ski aesthetic that you mention has been strongly influenced by the snowboarding ‘look’ that developed during the mid- to late-1990s. During this period, snowboarders embodied the masculine images of the skateboarder, the urban gangster and the punk, and manipulated these into the stereotypical snowboarder style. By aligning themselves with the styles of underclass groups, the mostly white, middle-upper class snowboarder was attempting to make authentic the claim to being marginal, abnormal and poor and, most importantly, distinctly different from the upper class skier.

In his really interesting and innovative work, Kyle Kusz argues that extreme sports, such as snowboarding, were popularized during the 1990s at a particular historical conjuncture when cultural diversity and white privilege were made visible to white America. According to Kusz, white people developed a number of ways to disavow their investment or connection to white privilege during this period. He explains that many white people frequently downplayed the security or comfort of their economic position, or they claimed working class, poor, or ‘white trash’ roots. For Kusz, ‘extreme sports served as a cultural means through which white dominance could be restored ironically through the promotion of stories and ideas which implicitly denied and disavowed the existence of social and economic white privilege’. The ‘white trash’ identity was certainly embraced by many privileged snowboarders during this period, as were the punk, skateboarder, and urban gangster identities.

While Kusz’s argument is insightful in relation to snowboarding in North America, it is less relevant for explaining the emulation of underclass styles by privileged snowboarding (and freeride ski) youth in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia, where these sports developed in different social, cultural and racial contexts. Here, I suggest that snowboarders’ (and freeride skiers) alignment with the styles of underclass groups may be more a reflection of youth rebellion against alpine skiers and their parents’ generation, rather than a class (or race) issue.

The ski world is lucky to have Holly’s vast knowledge in sports culture out our fingertips. If you would like to learn more about Dr. Thorpe’s books, lecturing, and more, go to http://hollythorpe.com Look for the above mentioned Dr. Kyle Kusz in an Part Two of Shredding Sociology.

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[i] According to a recent study conducted by the United States National Sporting Goods Association, only 11 per cent of American snowboarders are members of racial/ethnic minority groups; 3.6 per cent Asian, 2.3 per cent Hispanic/Spanish/Latino, 1.6 per cent African American, 1.1 per cent Native American, and 2.4 per cent other (NGSA, 2001).

[ii] Clipping tickets is common practice among (typically younger) snowboarders and skiers on a tight budget. They approach patrons in the resort car park who appear to be heading home from a morning on the mountain, and offer them a cheap price for their used lift-ticket (e.g., $10 for a lift-ticket initially purchased for $60).

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