Outside magazine, December 1997
Last september at the Willow Creek Golf Course near Vail, Colorado, the country-club set experienced its worst nightmare. In broad daylight, 140 baggy-pants-wearing snowboarders commandeered the fairways, blasted Beastie Boys tunes from the clubhouse sound system, and hacked out nine holes of "golf." They teed off while strapped onto their boards. They putted blindfolded. Between holes they boarded down steeply bermed bunkers, ollied up to indy grabs, and executed somersaults that left huge divots in the sand. "It was really weird," says Rich Teeters, a club member who witnessed the spectacle. "I didn't see anyone dressed like a normal golfer. I mean, you usually don't see much piercing on a golf course."
Self-mutilation aside, it was, for better or worse, an officially sanctioned event. By the end of the day, the tournament had netted $3,500 for the Snowboard Outreach Society, a charitable organization that teaches snowboarding to under-privileged kids. And this was not an isolated incident. Yes, as strange as it may seem, it turns out that snowboarders can often be found donating their time, talent, and money to worthy causes. This month, for example, the Snowboard Outreach Society will follow up on its golf event with the Real Love Tour, a four-mountain boarding competition in Colorado. Then, in March, the fifth annual Board AID takes place in Big Bear, California, in support of AIDS awareness; in April, the third annual Boarding for Breast Cancer takes center stage at Sierra-at-Tahoe in California, while the third annual Vegetate, a fund-raiser for — we are not making this up — the imperiled wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, kicks off at Oregon's Mount Hood Meadows.
It should also be noted that these are not small-time happenings. The two biggest charity events, Board AID and Boarding for Breast Cancer, have raised $470,000 and $105,000 respectively and draw 5,000 to 7,000 spectators each year. Of course, much of the interest can be attributed to something not entirely altruistic: The events are more Lollapalooza than black-tie banquet, featuring high-flying boarding demonstrations and high-decibel concerts that attract top riders and edgy bands like Porno for Pyros, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Bad Religion. But for the most part, riders check their competitive juices and mosh-pit penchants at the door, turning the festivals into genuine feel-good love-ins. "At our '95 event, Perry Farrell sang 'The Mountain Song,' which he hadn't sung since he was with Jane's Addiction," says Board AID's Leah Jones. "Man, that's like an anthem for snowboarders. It was nothing less than spiritual."
Which brings us to the question that must by now be on everyone's mind: Why such sweetness and light from a group that studiously cultivates a Bill-Johnson-meets-Ice-Cube image? "Snowboarders are no less aware of the problems facing our society than anyone else," answers Boarding for Breast Cancer cofounder Kathleen Gasperini, with the slightly annoyed tone common to those who