Getting on Board

More skiers are trying snowboards...
and a lot of them never go back to planks

Copyright 1996 © Sandpoint Magazine. Photo Courtesy of Liquid Snowboards.

It wasn't but a few years back that snowboarders were fighting for acceptance in ski resorts, subject to hassles if they weren't banned from the lifts entirely.

What a difference a few years can make.

Last summer, the National Sporting Goods Association reported snowboarding is the eighth fastest-growing sport in the nation. The sport had 2.3 million participants in 1995, a 9.6 percent increase over the previous year.

By contrast, alpine skiing declined 12.8 percent. While the overall number of alpine skiers, 9.3 million, is still much larger than snowboarders, if the trend continues snowboarding will eclipse skiing in fewer than 10 years. One obvious reason for the trend is that most kids starting out in snow sports - up to 85 percent of them - choose boards over skis.

But now adults are choosing boards, too. More and more older skiers are taking up snowboarding because, well, the sport's a blast. Last year Wil Beasley, a 45-ish fellow who's terribly sensitive about his specific age, turned snowboarder. Beasley, of Bonners Ferry, has been telemark skiing at Schweitzer for years, while his wife Susanne took up alpine skiing.

As Susanne improved, the difference in their gear began to tell "She got faster and faster and it was beating me up trying to keep up with her," Beasley said. "We wanted to do something together."

They tried snowboarding early in the season, and that was it for the skis. "We didn't take our skis out once last year," Susanne said, guessing they went out 12 to 15 times. She likes the board because "they're absolutely superb in powder. They're powder machines."

Shawn Taylor, who owns the snowboard shop Ground Zero in Sandpoint, wants to make it easy for adults to sample boarding. So this winter he'll be sponsoring some "Over-30" evenings at Schweitzer for first-time adult riders to try out a board for free.

"That's for us older folks to get out on the snow without the pressure," he said, adding with a laugh, "I'm 30 now."

A lot of adults like boards because they are easier on the knees, the most injury-prone joint for skiers. On a board, both feet are fixed. "You don't get that independent leg action, with one leg going one way and the other leg going the other way," Taylor said.

Skiers who make the switch find that snowboarding is fairly easy to learn. "The first day or two can be kind of interesting," said Taylor. "But after you link your first turns, it seems to click."

Taylor is adding a Ground Zero shop on the mountain this year, where he'll offer board rentals and tuning, demos and equipment sales. He's also working on a home page for the World Wide Web, supports the local boarding club, the Stormriders, and will help sponsor the Board Fest competition Jan. 25-26 at Schweitzer. ·

For local boarding information, call Ground Zero at 208/265-6714.

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