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Steamboat Magazine

Snowboarding Family Style

12/01/2002 01:00AM ● By Keri Hirsch

Winter 2002:

Snowboarding Family Style

by Keri Hirsch

    Five-year-old Maggie “Roxy” Rose Carrigan cruises up to her family at Maverick’s superpipe at the Steamboat Ski Area. Just like her pro/amateur snowboarder siblings, she makes a perfect heelside, hockey stop. “Dad says we should send a picture to Roxy (popular female surf/snowboard clothing company) and get her sponsored,” sister Tori says with a laugh.    Tori and Lex Carrigan, twins, 15, are two hot, local pro/amateur snowboarders. They spend each winter (plus a summer session) training with the Steamboat Springs\ Winter Sports Club and competing in regional and national competitions.   Like many local kids, they relish free-riding on the mountains with their friends. But what may be different for other kids, or Old School boarders, is that the Carrigan kids have just as much fun hanging with their parents on the hill.   Before snowboarding became a mainstream winter sport, it was an alternative, hard-core sport comparable to skateboarding. It was predominantly the domain of teenage males who came from a skateboarding or surfing background. Many Old School boarders remember their first years, when they built “kickers” illegally in public parks or school playgrounds.   Others reminisce about hitchhiking up snow-covered mountain passes and snowboarding down. Years ago, snowboarding was forbidden at most American ski resorts and furthermore, it was not welcomed by the ski industry. At that time, snowboarding was alternative, extreme and typically not a popular group activity for families.   Several factors have contributed to making snowboarding a mainstream activity today. In the ‘90s, the media consistently touted the trendy, baggy fashions and alternative music as “snowboarder style.” And when snowboarding was introduced into the Olympics, it galvanized the sport. People of every age are noriding for all sorts of reasons – the quick learning curve, product and clothing comfort or style, or simply because it’s fun.   Today, snowboarding is a catalyst that bonds families together. The Carrigans could be a poster family for the snowboarding experience. Parents Marty and Tammy have been involved in the ski industry for more than 20 years.   Tammy is a professional ski instructor who also snowboards, and Marty is vice president of operations for Palmer Snowboards. “As Lex and Tori began to compete in snowboarding about eight years ago, our entire family would spend each weekend supporting them at different resorts,” Marty recalls. “It has also been exciting to watch the progression of the sport around our children.”   Both Lex and Tori are on the Junior National Team, and Tori was recently named to the national development team. “Roxy just started shredding all over the whole mountain and for sure will be a force to be reckoned with in the future,” Marty predicts.   The Carrigans watched the women’s and men’s halfpipe qualifying finals at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Tori had been selected to forerun the halfpipe for the Olympic event, but two weeks before the trip, she broke her back in a competition in Vail (trying to qualify for Nationals). “I was really bummed I couldn’t do the forerun, but being there with my family was even better,” Tori says.    The Carrigans, along with 30,000 other people, watched the American snowboarders sweep the halfpipe podium – the same podium on which Tori, Lex and Roxy aspire to perch at the 2006 and 2010 Games.   This Carrigan family memory mirrors the story of the sport as a whole. Before snowboarding became a popular Olympic sport, it went through many years of product development and struggles for mainstream recognition.   Snowboarding roots date back to 1965, when chemical engineer (and Steamboat resident) Sherman Poppen designed the first snowboard, “the Snurfer,” for his daughter, Wendy. The Snurfer was made up of two skis bound together with a rope attached to the “nose” of the board. Sherm went on to design and license a second model of Snurfer, and by 1966 a half-million Snurfers were in use around the globe.   By the late ‘70s, the Snurfer was redesigned by skateboard/surf/ski/Snurf pioneers. After numerous innovative creations (including a school lunch tray, a piece of laminated hardwood, an aluminum sheet on a wood block and a carpeted skateboard deck on a plastic shell), extensive equipment test riding and countless equipment test crashes, Jake Burton introduced the first snowboard, a P-tex-based board with rubber foot bindings, in 1980.    Snowboarding grein the mid-80s while ski businesses declined. In fall 1989, most of the major ski resorts succumbed: Steamboat, Mammoth, Vail, Snowbird and Squaw Valley. The initial acceptance of snowboarding by these prestigious resorts allowed pioneering riders to mature into viable resources for the ski industry.    “It was either in 1989 or 1990 when we could finally snowboard on the ski area,” recalls Steamboat resident Kenny Porteous. “We used to have to drive up the pass, as far as our cars would go. Then we would snowboard down and hitch a ride or hike back up to the car. In the ‘80s, there was just a small group of us who knew about snowboarding. Once the ski area allowed us to ride our boards on the ski mountain, skiers and nonskiers sahomuch fun we were having, and they wanted to learn hoto snowboard, too.”   Kenny and his wife, Barb, began snowboarding just about the time they stopped Snurfing. And they see snowboarding as a wonderful part of their family life today. “I teach everyone I know. I’ve taught my entire family, and nomy daughters, 8 and 10, are two of the best snowboard  ambassadors on the ski mountain. My son, Palmer (named after Palmer Snowboards),had his first day in March. I go snowboarding with my friends, but when you go with your family, you’re really going to dig it! We learn as a group together.”    Kenny taught snowboarding for the resort for many years, and nojust teaches his friends for fun. He loves to give a passionate first impression of snowboarding to everyone. “I remember teaching a friend of mine years ago. Then the next season he returned with his son, and we all rode together. Last year, they brought the grandfather, and I taught him, too. It’s cool how the sport has evolved. You’re seeing three generations snowboarding together.”   The Porteous family spends almost every winter weekend together on the slopes; but daughters Paige and Hanna have other priorities as well. Paige wants to be a language professor, and Hanna would like to be a veterinarian or marine biologist. Both girls loveplaying with Palmer, plus ice skating, inline skating, wakeboarding and bicycling. “Having the kids group in a sporty  atmosphere is just a healthy way to raise a family,” Barb says.    “The coolest thing is that we all feel ‘stoked’ when we soar down the mountain together,” Kenny says, thereby defining neterms for family fun.