Snowboarding is one of the newest sports, and one of the fastest growing. In the roughly 30 years of its existence it has become an Olympic sport, and in some areas it has become the major snow sport. It has shed its underground, rebellious youth image and become a sport for all ages. However, it retains a sense of "cool", of association with danger, and of being part of a "lifestyle" rather than a weekend or holiday activity. Within the cultural vocabulary of snowboarding is the theme of "soul riding", which is associated with the freeriding, rather than the racing or freestyle (trick riding) elements of snowboarding.
The "soul rider" is the somewhat iconic, inspirational, figure - the completely competent snowboarder, unafraid of the dangers of backcountry snowboarding. Soul riders are not seeking the glamour of video and magazine coverage, but the peace and solitude of riding "out of bounds". The professional soul rider is able to spend their complete life riding the untracked powder far from the crowded city streets or resort trails. Yet, the activity is accessible to the majority of snowboarders, for the level of technique required is within the grasp of the average snowboarder and many resorts include some untracked areas within their boundaries. Thus, soul riding is both inspirational and achievable.
The significance of "soul riding" is key to understanding this evolving element of contemporary western culture. Soul riding is not merely a media construct intended to sell more products, or to an attempt to advance the aims of the snowboarding industry in some way, although, those have been the effects of this trend. As skateboard shops began to realize that this was the ultimate crossover sport, little corner shops began to expand and the birth of a new sub-culture arose; snowboard culture.
The incipient stages of this new culture came at a time when the economy was low and it was tough times for many retailers.