Mountain Pulse: Skiers, snowboarders sharing the mountain in harmony |

Mountain Pulse: Skiers, snowboarders sharing the mountain in harmony

Skiers and snowboarders ride down Vail Mountain's Swingsville in 2015. The two snow sports have built a mutual respect for each other over the years, despite a rough start when snowboarders first hit the mountains.
Townsend Bessent | |

VAIL — We’ve all heard the jokes.

How does a snowboarder say hello? “Sorry, dude.”

How many skiers does it take to screw in a light bulb? One hundred — one to twist it in and 99 to say, “Nice turns!”

The animosity, jokingly or seriously, between skiers and snowboarders has mellowed out over the years.

“Sure, there used to be some animosity,” said Jim Service, who started snowboarding in 1986. “But that’s just because I think a lot of skiers were a little slow to come around to it. Now, I know people who ski and snowboard.”

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Breckenridge was the first major ski resort to allow snowboarding in 1985. During that season, only 40 resorts allowed snowboarding. By 1990, 476 resorts were allowing snowboarders. Today, only a few mountains don’t allow snowboarders.

“It was just something new,” said Buzz Schleper, who has been skiing for about 60 years, but also snowboards and is the owner of Buzz’s Boards in Vail. “Skiers didn’t want snowboarders on the mountain, and that kind of maybe started it.”

Snowboarders cracked onto the scene wearing baggy clothes and riding with an inherent blind spot. Being banned from mountains leaves a sour feeling to begin with, and outsiders were coming from all over the country to ski resorts.

“Skiers grew up with mountain etiquette and knew how to work the mountain,” Service said, “and snowboarders were just coming from anywhere and didn’t really have that mountain etiquette background.”

Nowadays, though, snowboarding has ingrained itself into the mountain community. A lot of groups on the mountain now have both skiers and snowboarders riding together.

“It’s definitely a little different,” said skier Nick Diercks, of Denver. “You do obviously have to wait for them to buckle in.”

According to SnowSports Industries America, 9,378,000 skiers and 7,676,000 snowboarders hit the slopes in 2014-15. The majority of both skiers and snowboarders are in the 25-34 age range, according to the report, and about 38 percent of skiers are over the age of 35 compared to about 25 percent of snowboarders being above that age.

“It seems to me a younger generation snowboards and an older generation skis,” Diercks said. “And just like anything, whether it’s driving or any other activity like this, the younger generation will always annoy the older generation a little bit.”


If anything, the friendly competition has been beneficial to both snow sports.

“The creation of snowboarding and snowboards is what brought about the ski revolution with the wider skis and deeper side cuts,” Schleper said. “It’s a blessing for skiers whether they know it or not.”

“Competition is healthy in all scenes,” said Joe Gillis, of Eagle-Vail, who has been snowboarding since 1990. “Really the people that know the value of snowboarding know that it’s contributed basically to the creation of the shaped ski — camber, rocker and all the other stuff — that came about from snowboarding.”

Rich Staats, of Avon, has noticed a back-and-forth with the two sports, where snowboarding made skiing no longer “cool,” and then the skis got better and could do things similar to if not bigger than boards.

“They feed off each other,” Staats said. “Nowadays, if you’re into something, it doesn’t matter what it is, if you’re into it and you’re hardcore, people are going to give you a lot of respect.”

“We’re all just going down the hill,” said Gillis. “We’ve all got the same thing in mind. We don’t do it the same way, but we’re all out there enjoying the same things.”

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

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