Snowboarding Grows in Popularity

The coverage snowboarding got at the Winter Olympics underlined the fact that it's one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S.

The National Sporting Goods Association found snowboarding was the fastest-growing sport in the nation for three out the five years between 1996 and 2000, the most recent year available.

And because the sport attracts young people, it is also helping the ski industry grow. Nearly 40 percent of snowboarders are between the ages of 12 and 17, and 22 percent are between 18 and 24, according to the NSGA.

Snowboarding also looks like it's here to stay. The number of resorts that allow snowboarding far outnumber those that don't. The only four major ones that don't area Taos, N.M.; Deer Valley, Utah (located, ironically enough, next to Park City, the Olympic venue for snowboarding); Alta, Utah and Mad River Glen in Vermont.

Snowboarding on TV

Aspen Mountain finally broke down last year and allowed snowboarders on its slopes, and in fact was the site of the ESPN X Games this year from Jan. 17-20. The games will be held there again next year as well. Other major resorts are going after high-profile snowboarding events. Vail was the site of the World Snowboarding Championship just last weekend. The event will be televised on ESPN2 next week.

In general, ski resorts see so much opportunity in snowboarding that almost all of them have terrain parks and half pipes for boarders to ride. And some of the major resorts have facilities that have earned kudos from the snowboarding community. Breckenridge, in Colorado, for example, was voted as having the best half pipe in the nation by the readers of Snowboarding Magazine.

But among aficionados, the resorts that cater the most to snowboarders are not necessarily the majors but rather places such as Snow Summit, in California, a relatively small resort that has done an excellent job of marketing to snowboarders, according to John Stouffer, editor of Snowboarding Business magazine.

"The entire mountain is covered with parks and pipes," he says.

West Coast Phenom

That California would be home to one of the best snowboarding mountains makes sense. Snowboarding is hottest on the West Coast, where a culture that had already embraced surfing and skateboarding found snowboarding a natural segue.

Among the other resorts that cater heavily to snowboarders: Mountain High, Calif., Paoli Peaks, Ind,; Mount Snow, Nokemo and Killington, all in Vermont. For a comprehensive listing of resorts that love snowboarders, including major resorts as well as smaller ones, see our ski tips (above, left).

But just because the sport appeals to young people doesn't mean it's completely a new phenomenon. Snowboarding magazine is 16 years old. And Mike Allen, director of the Perfect Turn ski school at Heavenly Valley, Calif., notes one upcoming threat to the sport. He says some young people now want to ski so as to distinguish themselves from their snowboarding parents.

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