April 24, 1995
My skier friends thought I was nuts when I told them I wanted to snowboard. They couldn’t understand why I would hang up my skis to join the ranks of the overly tattooed, dread-locked teenaged boys in baggy clothes that skiers love to hate.
But what attracted me went beyond image. I admired the simple elegance of the sport. A snowboarder gliding in a serpentine pattern down a mountain is a breathtaking demonstration of grace. The beauty of snowboarding is what appealed to me. (And, I admit, the fact that I was a terrible skier and had nothing to lose.)
Naturally, I was excited the day I actually found the nerve to really try it. I even talked a reluctant girlfriend into joining me on my adventure. However, my elation soon turned to disappointment before we ever reached the mountain. In the process of renting boards and boots, I soon discovered that the snowboarders that I admired are sexist snobs.
My friend and I woke up early one Sunday morning in Denver to head to Winter Park for our first gnarly boarding experience. I donned the baggiest old clothes I could find and headed to the ski shop to rent my board. Feeling like a true “trigger-chick,” I asked with confidence for size-7 women’s boots and a snowboard. “Uh, like, we don’t have girl-size boots, dude,” proclaimed the clerk. Well, fine, I’ll take a men’s size 5. “Nope, we don’t have boots that small. But, go over to that huge snowboard shop on Sixth Avenue. They’ve got everything.”
Irritated, but still in good spirits, my friend and I drove to the huge snowboard shop on Sixth to rent our boards. The clerk’s head was shaved, I assumed to show off his collection of scalp tattoos and earrings everywhere but in his ears. But he was otherwise a pleasant-looking guy. He was with a customer, so we waited patiently for him to acknowledge our presence. A few minutes later, a couple of guys walked into the shop.
“Hey, dudes, what’s up,” said the clerk to the newcomers. “Like, what can I help you with today?” I felt the blood begin to boil in my face as I protested. “Excuse me, I believe we were here first,” I said defiantly, feeling agitated and downright frustrated.
“Oh, did you girls need something?”
Yes, we did need something. I informed him defensively that us girls needed to rent snowboards. Once again, however, there were no boots to fit us, and we shuffled out of the shop defeated.
By this time, we were ready to give up snowboarding altogether, and we hadn’t even fallen once. I supposed if the snowboarding world refused to give me respect I should just remain a skier. We decided to give it one more shot. We headed up to Winter Park and tried a couple of more shops. Finally, on our fourth try, we found boots that fit and two very helpful clerks. Alas, our faith renewed, my adventurous friend and I headed to the mountain for a day of bruised knees and sore buttocks.
I have since snowboarded several times and have fallen in love with the sport. However, the insensitivity to women that I experienced in the snowboard industry disturbs me. I continually experience bad service in snowboard shops. Also, manufacturers offer little choice in equipment designed for women, despite the fact females are flocking to the sport. The February issue of Vogue reported that half of newcomers to the sport are women. Snowboard shops and manufacturers better wake up and start treating their female customers a little better.
To me, snowboarding represents all the enviable freedom, rebellion and recklessness of youth. It is shameful, even hypocritical, that such a progressive sport possesses the ugly, ancient attitude of sexism. But, as a champion of “trigger-chicks” everywhere, I refuse to be intimidated by anything but the mountain itself. I’ll persevere like a modern-day Joan-of-Arc to achieve righteous airs, wicked crooked crops and stylin’ melons.
(Editor’s note: Is Laurel a simply a radical feminist looking for a fight, or does she have a point? Let us know by using “Letter to the Editor” the form below.)