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Sensual Snowboarding Bodies in Affective Spaces

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Given the richness and cultural significance of the images, narratives, rep- resentations, and meanings so powerfully associated with snowboarding as a cultural form, it is sometimes ‘easy to forget that these are all epiphenomena’ (Ford & Brown, 2006, p. 149). Boarders frequently reiterate that the embodied and immediate experience of snowboarding is the key to the cultural practice and words cannot articulate the experience. According to one cultural commentator,

Trying to talk about it is like trying to explain why you like your favourite song. It feels good. It makes you happy. To snowboarders, snowboarding is not a book. It’s not a symbol or a fashion or an attitude either. It’s an awesome, personal experience that’s better left unarticulated. (Howe, 1998, pp. ix–x)


  • Sensual Experience
  • Affective Experience
  • Snow Condition
  • Cultural Geography
  • Mountain Village

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Big mountain riding is scary. It can result in the most memorable experiences of your life or it can result in a horrible death by suffocation or bloodied trauma buried under hundreds of tons of moving snow. Snowboarders can reach speeds of over 150km/h as they race down rocky faces, over cliffs, crevasses and outrun avalanches. Snowboarding down mountains in places like Alaska, that are so steep you cannot see more than 10 meters in front of you… takes amazing snowboarding ability and a super heightened awareness of the mountain….Unlike freestyle riding, which is heavily visual, big mountain riding relies on feeling, being in the moment and experiencing everything that is around you; the snow, the mountain, the trees, the speed, the wind, the airtime. (Holt, 2005, p. 91)

Shannon and I took the gondola up to the very top [of Cortina Resort, Italy]. We scouted out a run that was untracked powder. We had to traverse on our boards around this cliff range to get to it. We kept going around the mountain and at one point I looked up and thought, ‘Oh my God!’ I told Shannon to stop and look up. We couldn’t believe the mountain and this cliff we were standing under – it was about 600 feet above us and we were right underneath it so the view was breathtaking. Down below looked like the perfect run… wide, open, diamonds of powder. We thought, let’s do this run together – we’ll do doubles instead of going down one at a time. Fresh powder turns that were perfect, snow flying in plumes with each turn, and we were yelling to each other the whole way down. At the bottom, we high- fived and hugged each other and were crying. We were so wrapped up in this feeling of a powder day in a beautiful place with friends. It was incredibly emotional. (Basich, 2003, p. 118)

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  • DOI: 10.1057/9780230305571_9
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© 2011 Holly Thorpe

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Thorpe, H. (2011). Sensual Snowboarding Bodies in Affective Spaces. In: Snowboarding Bodies in Theory and Practice. Global Culture and Sport Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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