The Aspen Snowmass Meeting 12 Cool in Aspen
Leaders in the actions sports community meet to look ahead.
If you work in the action sports community, The Meeting is a can’t miss for learning and networking. Also, if you’re an athlete, or just want to have an excellent weekend, this is the event for you. Set in beautiful Aspen, Colorado, The Meeting falls at a time of year surrounded with much anticipation for the upcoming snow season as the leaves are glowing blaze orange and the first signs of winter are showing in the Rocky Mountains. This time of year, with 10 to 12 long weeks away before the first powder falls, we get amped up as the new movies come out, major blow out gear sales occur and the weather turns cold.
First day of The Meeting provided the bulk of the educational seminars and panels, the opening panel hosted by senior ESPN reporter Alyssa Roenigk consisted of Ben Bryan (Red Bull Media House), Kellie McElderry (The Orchard) and Wil Tildman (GoPro). The takeaway here was that every brand and every company is going to value it’s creative content in a different way. For some it’s more about the art, for others it’s about keeping the lights on (i.e. making money) and this creates a really dynamic conversation, especially when you’re talking about these major Hollywood-style, full form, feature-length films. As the action sports industry grows, it presents more opportunity for investment than ever before. As we all know, with ample resources we can create our best art. The real challenge for these brands is striking a balance between the business-side and the creative-side of the relationship.
In this dichotomy, the ski and snowboard industry is facing an existential crisis. As the sport becomes more and more popular in the United States, people are understanding the ability for these sports to generate money. This is a challenge; the core essence of skiing and snowboarding is about freedom, it’s about escape and it’s about liberation, now mixed with capitalism and opportunism the two worlds are learning and growing together. A great example of a long-standing bond between ski sports and capitalism is the relationship between Mountain Dew and it’s namesake contest series, The Dew Tour (coming up December 8-11 in Breckenridge btw). How did a brand that makes soda build one of the most coveted contest series in the sport? I’ll tell you how, it’s through the non-endemic market. Brands, now, more so than ever, are understanding this opportunity to seize on the concept of cool and thus, brands are understanding how to reach out to new markets, through the promotion of a lifestyle.
From what I have seen, this is a rapidly changing relationship. I grew up in the foothills of Colorado and snowboarding quickly became the coolest thing that I could think of. Back then, there were not many pro snowboarders of whom your parents thought were great role models. But damn, those guys were cool, they were renegades and rebels on the fringes of a ski-dominant culture. They made movies about jumping cars off of cliffs and setting shit on fire. Now, thanks to heavy hitting sponsorship and non-endemic markets, a snowboarder can be the new vision of the American dream, a snowboarder embodies a life of freedom and challenge. Today snowboarders are people that you can look up to and yes, they are still cool.
It’s just different now, the coolness that is. It means more, it means less, it’s not as specific as it was. For example, skiing and snowboarding are cool together now. This was not the case when I was growing up, we were enemies. Now, skiing will make a slopestyle (downhill freestyle) debut in the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics and 686 (a primarily snowboard outerwear brand) just signed their first skier to the team. The snowboarders lent some of the “gangster style,” to freestyle skiing and the skiers gave snowboarders some, much needed “sophistication,” just look at the rise of split boards and alpine-touring (A/T) in snowboarding, and the rise of dreadlocks in skiing…
Skiing vs. Snowboarding Q&A
As we all know around here (Aspen), it’s easier to get “tits deep in the pow” on a snowboard, but I thought I might ask some of the sports’ greatest while I was at the Protect Our Winters Cocktail Party at the Wheeler Opera House;
“So guys, where are we at with the whole skier vs. snowboarder thing?”
Auden Schendler (Skier), Vice President of Sustainability – Aspen Skiing Company, “I don’t think it’s an issue, I mean look at POWs (Protect Our Winters) Board, it’s skiers and snowboarders in harmony.”
Chad Otterstrom (Snowboarder), Snowboard Legend, “According to (famous downhill skier), apparently we need to be separated, but I was here (in Aspen 1988) when they let snowboarders on the mountain for one day, about 15 of us got busted ollieing ropes, we made the front page (of the newspaper). For me, I grew up a skier and a skateboarder so when snowboarding came out I started snowboarding, (naturally) I have no problems with skiers.”
John Collinson (Skier), Pro Skier, “I think there is a lot of hate going down on the skier vs. snowboarder front, in my point of view, just take out the ‘vs.’ because its skiers with snowboarders. Every time I ski, I ride with snowboarders, I draw so much inspiration from snowboarding, I think that is true across all platforms of skiing. We are all doing the same thing and having the same fun.”
Jeremy Jones (Snowboarder), Jones Snowboards, Founder – Protect Our Winters, “In my world, I’ve always picked my riding partners by their attitude and not what’s on their feet…I don’t see there being more tension in the mountains, it’s a nice little media buzz, but I don’t think it’s anything.”
Ben Moscona (Skier), Professional Photographer, “I watched a video recently, taken in the 80’s, about how dangerous snowboarders were, never should be allowed near skiers. It’s funny because we are all sliding on snow, having a good time, (freestyle) skiing mimics snowboarding a lot in the last 15 years, at the end of the day, we are all the same breed of snow monkeys.”
Ben Bryan (Snowboarder), Director of Feature Films – Red Bull Media House, “From my experience, I love riding with skiers, for me its no big deal, if people are out having fun in the snow, I don’t know why everyone has to get so bent out of shape. But, I would like to go rip a nice line through Alta when it opens (for snowboarders).”
So there you have it folks, in ten paragraphs or less, straight from your source at AspenRealLife; The Meeting is a must, skiing is Rasta, snowboarders are more sophisticated than ever, and it turns out, there are still two ways to get tits deep in the pow. So whether you are going big or going home, living LifeProof or Doing the Dew, its still as cool as the snow its on.