Lilly Ehrlich

Why we do Snowboard

We hear it time and time again: Male Snowboarders are better than female snowboarders. And in terms of the complexity of the tricks shown in competition, especially slopestyle, that might as well be true. But is it really? Why is there such a big gap between men and women in snowboarding?

The most common argument out there for why women are inferior to men in many sports is the difference in body structure and composition. Men typically have a V-shaped body; this means they have a different centre of gravity than women normally do. It also means that they have structural differences in the hip. As a result, injuries to the hip and hip joints are more common in female athletes than in male ones. In addition to that, women need more hip strength to land correctly than men do. But all of that just means that women must find their own way of doing the same tricks that men do. So, while the different body structure contributes a small amount to the difference in skills and tricks shown at competition, it is no excuse.

After watching interviews, live competition and doing my own research, the most important reason for the gap in skill is strategy. There are way less women competing against each other than there are men. This is perfectly shown by the number of participants in the” FIS Snowboard Worldcup 2018 – Slopestyle”. 27 women participated, not even half the number of male participants (56). This means there is a lot less competition between participants. The top female snowboarders win easily by doing a safe run – they don’t want to risk harming themselves or messing up their tricks because they know that they don’t have to. The male competitors on the other hand had to fight tooth and nail to even get into the top 15 – they had to take a lot of risks during their runs. This means that male snowboarders constantly strive to be better, while women’s snowboarding stagnates.

But why aren’t there more female snowboarders? Snowboarding has always been dominated by men ever since it was created – also by men. They control the development of the sport. Snowboarding was heavily influenced by surfing and skateboarding culture – cultures where “masculinity in style, speech, and behaviour generally excel”. Studies found that women and men viewed male snowboarders as “ruder, more irresponsible and noisier than female snowboarders”. Nothing about this sounds welcoming to women. In 2014 women made up only a third of snowboarders, according to a SIA Intelligence Report. Although the number of female snowboarders is increasing, the boarder industry is not making it easy for them. There is barely any research on female snowboarders’ behaviours, habits, and preferences. While sales in snow sports increased to 5.4%, female-specific snowboarding products declined by 3%. All the products available to women are just tweaked versions of the male products, and not in a good way. Stores are full of stereotypical pastel colours, overly sentimental copy, and too-tight clothing. Clothing for snowboarders is supposed to be loose for free range of motion, not so tight so that everyone can clearly see every curve of your body. female-specific snowboarding accessories are still styled by sexism and don't exactly feel like a warm welcome.

But overall, the discrepancy between male and female riders is less than a few years ago, and the gap is steadily decreasing in size. Take Anna Gasser as a wonderful example of that. She doesn’t only want to win a gold medal; she wants to be the best snowboarder in general. Gasser changed everyone’s view of female snowboarders with her Cap Double Cork 900 in 2013, then again with her Cap Double Cork 1080 in 2018, and her Cab triple Underflip 1260 at the Olympics. That is the kind of drive women’s snowboarding needed.


Lilly Ehrlich

10 article
Read more