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Producing and Consuming the Snowboarding Body

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Part of the Global Culture and Sport Series book series (GCS)


Within four short decades the snowboarding market has flourished, rapidly developing from a medley of backyard businesses to a global industry worth US$2.4 billion per annum (Morris, 2008). In this chapter I examine the snowboarding body as a malleable marker of commercial value subject to the fragmentation of this snowboarding market and the vagaries of fashion. Here I am particularly interested in the production and consumption of snowboarding bodies by company owners and employees, professional athletes, and various groups of cultural consumers. The following discussion consists of two main parts. The first examines snowboarding as a capitalist phenomenon through the works of political revolutionary and social theorist Karl Marx (1818–1883). Here I employ three of Marx’s basic principles of capitalism to explain how snowboarding propagates capitalist accumulation, competition, and exploitation in its modes of economic and political organization. I bring these theoretical concepts ‘to life’ using the case of Burton Snowboards. While this analysis reveals the inextricable links between snowboarding culture and the capitalist system, serious questions remain over the ability of Marx’s work to explain culture and cultural politics. Thus in the second part I draw upon a more recent post- Fordist perspective to further explain the relationship between the snowboarding economy and culture, illustrating this with the case of the female niche market.


  • Capital Accumulation
  • Niche Market
  • Capitalist System
  • Labor Power
  • Capitalist Mode

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I remember when I was 13 years old… the infatuation with the new product – a new board, a new jacket, a new pair of goggles – the brand- names, the colors, the smell, it all sticks with me. For kids getting into snowboarding, getting all the new gear is addicting and the companies depend on that. (Ste’en, personal communication, October 2005)

It’s just marketing, marketing, marketing… stuffing these kids’ minds with ‘coolness.’ It’s really big business. [As a professional snowboarder] if you do it right, you can really go far. It all depends on who your sponsors are and how good you are at talking, because even a mediocre athlete can go far if they know how the industry works, on the flipside the best snowboarder ever can get absolutely nothing if he or she doesn’t market themselves right. (Zane, personal communication, November 2005)

When I was younger I used to think: ‘Why is everybody so obsessed with growth?’ I used to have this debate in my head, and then I just sort of ultimately said: ‘Just go for it. Just grow, that’s what everybody wants. It’s what makes the world go round.’ So I sort of just sold out on that regard.… [But] that’s just how [business] works. You want to hire ambitious people. And those people will want to make more money and if everybody in the company wants to make more money there’s just one way that’s going to happen. You will have to grow. (Jake Burton, founder and chairman of Burton Snowboards, cited in Benedek, 2009, para. 10)

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  • DOI: 10.1057/9780230305571_3
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© 2011 Holly Thorpe

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Thorpe, H. (2011). Producing and Consuming the Snowboarding Body. In: Snowboarding Bodies in Theory and Practice. Global Culture and Sport Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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