Snowboarding in a New Media System


Ryland West

Senior Isaac Laredo rips some fresh groomers.

Ryland West, Editor

Nick Visconti reminisces about his first two-page spread in Transworld Snowboarding. Months after the trick was shot, he held a physical copy of his scrapes, bruises, and triumph. The photo of him, upside down, one hand holding him against the wall and the other grabbing his board, 20 feet above the ground lives in print. Now, Visconti, a former pro, X Games medalist and social media influencer, navigates an industry where progression and style is measured through the immediacy of likes and followers.

“In one viral video or photo, anyone or any brand can far surpass traditional publications’ ability to connect to active buyers, potential customers or interested audiences,” Visconti said.

The media system and the way we gather information is in a drastic state of change, and in snowboarding the culture has moved from the pages of print magazines to the less tangible virtual world of digital media. The evolution of trends, tricks, and brand marketing strategies that were once tracked in the pages of Transworld, SNOW BOARDER, and Snowboard are a relic of snowboarding’s nascent past. Now, Snowboard Magazine exists only digitally, and other mainstream publications have slashed their print runs to as infrequently as once a year. Does this mean snowboarding is dead? Media leaders in the sport argue that it’s far from it, but the channels – and consumers’ perception – are being challenged to find their place in the changing media ecosystem, and the sport is
following suit.

“The majority of content consumed is in a digital platform, be it on a computer or a phone,” Tom Monterosso, senior editor and photographer at SNOWBOARDER Magazine, said. “Fewer kids are buying magazines and more kids have access to a phone or a computer than ever, so the content that comes out is consumed, digested and passed through much more quickly.”

Content is also conforming to readers’ dwindling attention. Marketing specialists for Boreal mountain resort and Woodward Tahoe who track analytics have discovered the average watch time for any video or photo across all social networks is 22-23 seconds.

“For web, it’s short, sweet and digestible,” Monterosso said. “Read it and keep browsing. For social, it’s ‘viral,’ which I personally believe is a terrible term.”

He explains that media outlets want to create sensational headlines with sensational content that will get a lot of exposure, or a quick double tap.

SNOWBOARDER keeps timeless, longer-form content for print. “It all began with new technologies and accessible pricing for the average non-creative to be able to photograph, video, and self-publish content in social venues,” Visconti said. He rode through the largest media shift in snowboarding history.  “The industry went from two or three prominent publications to thousands of micro-publications and media participants. Everyone is their own micro media company now.”

As a brand that deals with marketing in this new world, Boreal has pulled out of most billboards, newspapers, and magazines and shifted its advertising to social media.

“I see much more value in getting 10 Instagram posts on SNOWBOARDER Magazine’s Instagram, than running a full-page ad,” Tucker Norred, Boreal marketing and communications manager, said. SNOWBOARDER Magazine has a following of more than 1 million on Instagram. Brands want access to that far-reaching platform.

Changing media demand a different approach to content production. Norred says immediacy and live updates resonate with his customers.

“I can spend $5,000 on a great videographer to film some amazing video here at boreal, and I can guarantee it will not go as viral as some of these ‘new snow’ posts,” he said.

Competing for eyeballs puts pressure on media companies to compete. Monterosso said that SNOWBOARDER must create a hundred times more content than ever before.

“We’re feeding the consumer so much content and there will never be too much content to consume, so it’s a snowball rolling down a very steep hill with no bench to slow it down in the foreseeable future,” he said.

As one of the few who made it as a pro snowboarder, Visconti says media did not influence his snowboarding, but it did influence how he went pro. This doesn’t ring true for all.

“Occasionally, I get a feeling that certain riders aim to make ‘viral’ content, but that’s flash-in-the-pan riding,” Monterosso said, “not the timeless riding that the core admires and remembers. Pro riders ultimately want the respect of their peers and that only comes from natural—not forced—progression.”

While platform use is changing, snowboarding participation in the west coast is on the rise. Boreal Mountain Resort is finding a rise in consumer participation through social media, and as a result a rise in ticket sales. Norred believes the market is adapting, so we will see how social media, and large content hubs, change through the decade. He believes it will shift to more raw, unedited live riding.