Cannabis And Snowboarding Through The Decades
For decades, snowboarding was part of the counterculture, and shared great overlap with its one-time partner in crime, cannabis. Read on to learn about the early history of snowboarding, the Ross Rebagliati scandal, the role of weed-smoking women in snowboarding, and advice for if you’re a stoner wanting to hit the slopes.
These days, snowboarding is widely accepted as a mainstream sport; it’s easy to forget that it was once a bastion of the counterculture, much less that it had a decades-long association with our favourite illicit plant. However, weed smoking and snowboarding share a long history, dating back perhaps even to the origins of the sport itself. Join us as we explore this history, profile some weed-loving snowboarders, and end with some advice on how you might safely pair these two hobbies.
HISTORY OF SNOWBOARDING
Snowboarding began in the 1960s when Sherman Poppen, an Engineer from Michigan, attached two skis together for his young daughters. The design was refined in the late 1960s, when 13-year-old skateboarder Tom Sims attached carpet to the top of a piece of wood and aluminum to the bottom. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, innovators further improved the design as the sport became popular and the first competitions were held.
In 1990, the International Snowboard Federation (ISF) was founded to standardise the rules, regulations, and competitive standards of the sport. Notable competitions were held, like the Winter X Games, the US Open, and Air & Style.
In 1998, snowboarding finally hit the big time at the Nagano, Japan Olympics. It was the first time snowboarding was included in the Olympics—France’s Karine Ruby won the women’s gold, and Canadian Ross Rebagliati won the men’s.
Things were going great for snowboarding, until they hit a snag: Rebagliati’s blood work came up positive for cannabis. He was arrested, accused of importing a controlled substance, and his gold medal was stripped away.
SNOWBOARDING AND WEED
If we take a layer off the official history of snowboarding, we find the history of the sport laced with traces of weed. Snowboarding started off as counterculture, a rebellion against the genteel norms of skiing. Snowboarders represented a bridge between the urban and the rural, adopting elements of skateboarding and surfing culture alike. Snowboarders were early adopters of hip hop and punk, and pioneered slang like “dude”, “gnarly”, and “Shred the Gnar”. As many early snowboarders can confirm, weed was a common fixture in boarding culture. The gondola was hotboxed so often it was sometimes dubbed the “ganjadola”.
Today, the sport’s gone mainstream, and snowboarding isn’t the hub of youthful rebellion it once was. However, the link between cannabis and snowboarding remains strong, nowhere more so than in the enigmatic figure who became its focal point: Ross Rebagliati.
In 1990, Ross Rebagliati took the sea-to-sky highway to Whistler, BC to pursue his dream of becoming a professional snowboarder. At first he didn’t fit in: “I was competing with these older guys that were super rowdy from the Interior. It was a clash of cultures—snowboarding was anti-conformist, and I was just a city kid from the coast”.
Soon though, he adapted, especially to the weed use so prevalent among BC snowboarders of the era: “There’s a big cannabis culture in BC, but particularly in Whistler, because it was all about making the most of the day. I learned about how it felt for me and how I could use it. Other guys would party, but the people I immersed myself with were all about getting first tracks. That was our focus, and the weed was a strain that went through everything we did”.
With the help of his friends and his weed, Rebagliati rose to the top, and after years of hard work, found himself competing in the 1998 Olympics. In the months leading up to the games, he stopped smoking, sure he’d test negative on the mandatory drug tests. But after his spectacular win, his coach pulled him aside; he’d tested positive for THC. Rebagliati reasoned that this must have been due to secondhand smoke as he’d been clean for ten months. He was arrested by the Japanese police, and his gold medal was stripped away. It was later reinstated as cannabis was not at that time on the IOC’s list of banned substances.
After the Olympics, 26-year-old Rebagliati intended on continuing with athletics, but he soon found his accomplishment overshadowed by the cannabis controversy. Though weed-friendly BC championed the hometown hero, the international community wasn’t so forgiving. Rebagliati was put on a no-fly list after 9/11, a development which stunted his fledgling career. He quit competitive snowboarding in 1999.
Rebagliati now lives a quiet life in Kelowna, BC, but with Canada’s recent legalization of recreational cannabis, he’s returning to his roots. Rebagliati is launching Legacy, a company dedicated to cannabis lifestyle, where he’ll sell cannabis skin products, growing kits, and Ross Rebagliati branded snowboards.
WEED-LOVING WOMEN IN SNOWBOARDING
The overlap between snowboarding and cannabis isn’t limited to the male side of the sport—it includes the women as well.
Circe Wallace burst onto the snowboarding scene in the early 1990s, where she won a world championship in Japan and boarded in the first X Games. She also collaborated with Vans to produce the first set of snowboarding boots for women.
She went on to become executive vice-president of Wasserman Media Group, a talent management company that represents professional snowboarders. More recently, Wallace has also branched off into her other area of passion: cannabis.
In 2017, Wallace launched Hot Nife, a company that sells all-natural CO₂-extracted cannabis concentrates. Wallace says, “I like to think of it as a nice bottle of wine. It’s all the nuances of any particular single strain that I think is interesting”. Hot Nife offers extracts from sativas, indicas, and hybrids, as well as a high-CBD option and a 90% THC concentrate.
Wallace discusses how being a woman in the industry brought its disadvantages: she had fewer business opportunities, had to “work harder and be louder” to get the same results, and was asked to objectify herself in advertising. She was often viewed as a “bitch” due to her confident attitude and ambitious nature.
Despite these hurdles, Wallace has achieved great success, both in snowboarding and in the cannabis industry. She’s not shy of crediting a certain special plant in her success, proudly stating, “I’m a stoner”.
WEED, SNOWBOARDING, AND YOU
With so many potheads becoming world-class snowboarders, why don’t we all just smoke up and hit the slopes?
Not so fast. Snowboarding carries some danger, with 41.5 snowboarders per year dying on the slopes. While some snowboarders say that smoking up helps them board more fluidly and creatively, others report feeling impaired. The fact is, most world-class boarders probably became competent at the sport before they started smoking up during practice. Being high while boarding can impair your judgment and blur your instincts, leaving you vulnerable to the dangers of the slopes.
If you want to experience the “ganjadola” and hit the slopes high, we recommend that you become a skilled snowboarder before taking your first on-hill toke. And if you are planning to get high while boarding, we’d recommend a high-CBD sativa. Dance World would be a great choice. It combines a motivating, uplifting high with that of high-CBD smoothness to ease your body down the slopes, free from aches and muscle spasms.
If you’re a stoner new to the world of snowboarding, we’d recommend smoking some weed after a day on the slopes. There’s nothing like capping off an exhilarating day of winter sports with a joint, hot chocolate, and warm blanket by the fire. We recommend Painkiller XL for your post-boarding decompression: its CBD-rich profile will ease your pain and inflammation, and its uplifting, contemplative high will put you in a mindset to appreciate all the gifts of the snowboarding experience.
Cannabis and snowboarding go back decades. We go over early snowboarding history, Ross Rebagliati, Circe Wallace, and general weed safety on the slopes.