Are skier-snowboarder relations thawing? |

Are skier-snowboarder relations thawing?

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/dtaylor@vaildaily.comMarina Hunt, left, pulls her snowboarding son, Matt Hunt, 10 right, across a flat cat track with her ski pole Wednesday on Vail Mountain. Marina, who is the only skier in their family of four, said she had no issues with snowboarders and the rest of her snowboarding family likes that she can help them on the flatter sections of the mountain.

VAIL, Colorado – On ski hills that welcome skiers and snowboarders, ranging from beginners to experts, there’s bound to be some conflict and a little finger-pointing.

The so-called beef between skiers and snowboarders is nothing new, but many skiers and riders seem to be happier with the way the two groups have evolved to coexist.

What the real issue comes down to is just plain old mountain etiquette, regardless of what kind of apparatus you ride to get down the hill, many skiers and riders say.

“I think it’s gotten a lot better since the 1980s when snowboarding first came out,” said Jeff Shelton, 38, of Vail.

Shelton, a snowboarder, thinks if each group tried a little harder to understand where the other is coming from, there might be less frustration between the two.

Shelton said he’s heard the complaints that snowboarders go too fast, and he and fellow snowboarders also share a common complaint that skiers take up too much space on the mountain by traversing so often.

“I think if we were both to understand why (snowboarders) need to go fast and why skiers take up so much space, we’d have a lot better time,” Shelton said.

Shelton, who works at Vail Mountain, said there are altercations on the mountain from time to time, and they’re almost always between a skier and a snowboarder.

Physical altercations are certainly extreme, as many skiers and snowboarders agree that the state of the relationship these days is fairly harmonious.

Mountain etiquette is something that goes for both sides, said Eric Sorensen, 31, of Vail. Sorensen skis and snowboards and follows the same etiquette regardless of whether he’s on skis or a snowboard.

“Just try and be conscious of what’s around you,” Sorensen said. “Sitting in the middle of a trail isn’t good no matter what you’re (riding) on.”

Shelbe Riehl, 17, of Denver, thinks some of the skiers from the older generations might still be “iffy” about snowboarding, but she thinks as it has become a more popular sport that those skiers are starting to come around.

“I think the skiers sometimes get mad – sometimes there are reckless snowboarders,” said Riehl, who snowboards.

National Ski Areas Association statistics prove snowboarding is gaining in popularity – the number of snowboarders on the mountain trails the number of skiers only slightly. In 2009, there were 6.2 million snowboarders in the United States who rode more than one day in the season – up more than 1 million since 2007 – and 7 million skiers who skied more than one day.

Snowboarders also have a higher number of days on the mountain per season than skiers, with 8.2 days and 7.6 days, respectively.

It’s a fact that skiers like Debra Guillod accept. However, she still thinks snowboarders sometimes come a little too close to skiers than necessary.

“They push the buttons a little bit – push the envelope a little bit,” Guillod said.

While those few bad eggs on either side of the argument have the ability to spoil perceptions of an entire group, the relationship today is as healthy as ever, said Teddy Funger, 20, from Washington D.C.

“I think that everyone is very accepting toward each other,” he said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at

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