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Female snowboarding is the most exciting thing right now, so it’s the road to equality in the snowboard industry

More than 150 men and women showed up to hear about the “Triumphs and Challenges of Women in Snowboarding” discussion held last Thursday during the Laax Open Women in Action Sports Panel. Snowboard journalist and Women in Action Sports Network director Alba Pardo hosted a discussion with professional snowboarder Sina Candrian and Burton Snowboards owner Donna Carpenter, delving into the dynamics of women's snowboarding and the transformative changes occurring in the industry.


The Pannel and (some of) the audience. Photo by Marcel Laemmerhirt

The conversation started by acknowledging the privilege of being in the snowboarding community and underscored the significance of recognising and appreciating this privilege. Albe expressed gratitude for the community's effort in advancing women's snowboarding and fostering equality within the industry.


Donna Carpenter, a prominent figure in the snowboarding world, was introduced with her extensive background at Burton, where she played a pivotal role in championing women's inclusion in snowboarding. Donna's journey from customer service to becoming the first female CEO of Burton was highlighted, along with her current focus on the CHILL Foundation, promoting inclusivity and youth engagement in sports.


Sina Candrian, an accomplished Olympic snowboarder, was introduced as a role model for the younger generation. The discussion then shifted to the pivotal moment in 2005 when LAAX hosted the first contest allowing women to compete in slopestyle with equal prize money. Although it wasn’t always equal prize money throughout the history of the Open, Donna elaborated on the significance of this decision and its positive impact on talent recruitment.


Donna answering a question with passion. Photo by Marcel Laemmerhirt

The conversation explored the current challenges in achieving gender balance in snowboarding, particularly in participation but also in equipment sales. Donna Carpenter acknowledged the existing disparity and expressed her retirement goal of achieving a 51% representation of women in both participation and sales.


The panel delved into the concept of the “default being male” in snowboarding design and everything else, with Alba posing a question to Sina about the preference for larger courses. Sina emphasised the importance of having the same courses as men, not just for equality but also to foster healthy competition and progression within the sport.


The dialogue shifted to the evolution of women's roles in the snowboarding industry, with a focus on breaking barriers and achieving diversity in decision-making positions. Donna shared Burton's journey in increasing the representation of women in leadership roles, reaching over 40% in the senior team.


Sina (and Donna) making the audience smile. Photo by Jennifer Lang

The conversation also touched on mentorship, with Sina highlighting the importance of having both male and female mentors. Donna emphasised the need for a diversity of opinions and backgrounds in decision-making processes and outlined the proactive steps Burton took to achieve this diversity.


Alba addressed the issue of the ecosystem, stressing the need for more female coaches, judges, and leaders in the industry. The discussion concluded with insights into the power of allies, the changing landscape of the snowboarding industry, and the ongoing efforts to create a more inclusive and diverse community.


Donna, Sina and Alba. Photo by Jennifer Lang

After the discussion among the guests, the audience was invited to ask questions, and the conversation took an even deeper level. From discussing the biggest misconception about female snowboarding, which was said to be that female snowboarding is the same as male snowboarding, to former Olympic rider and coach Lesley McKenna asking how endemic media and mainstream media can help push female snowboarding further. 


The questions and contributions also touched upon topics like the importance of inclusivity for people of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds in the sport and community. After half an hour of very insightful and intense questions about all these topics, professional snowboarder Sarka Pancochova brought up the desire and highlighted the need to bring back an all-female snowboard competition in the circuit. 


Some of the legendary audience. Photos by Jennifer Lang


In summary, the panel conversation explored the evolution of women's roles in snowboarding, the challenges faced in achieving equality, and the proactive steps taken by industry leaders to foster diversity and inclusion. How far we have come as a sport and as a community, but also acknowledging that there is still work to be done.  You can listen to the first part of the conversation here.

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