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.
Daily CBD, light THC. If he’s going to veg out on Netflix all day, go higher on the THC, lay back and let those knees chill. Look for a topical product for his knees with THC and CBD.
By: Jason Newman
Snowboarding was born from the counterculture. The early pioneers of the sport were rebels against the establishment. They were banned from ski resorts, outlaws on the mountain.
And they smoked weed. Or, at least, people assumed they did. Snowboarding and cannabis have always been linked, in part due to stereotypes about the athletes, but also out of some truth. When snowboarding debuted on the Olympic stage in 1998, it was rocked with controversy when the first gold medalist in the sport, Ross Rebagliati, tested positive for cannabis. He did get to keep his gold medal, however, because cannabis was not on the IOC’s list of banned substances.
Fast forward to 2018: Today the “outlaw on the mountain” image is more or less gone. The sport has gone mainstream. Grandfathers are carving on the mountain. This year, when 17-year-old Chloe Kim won the gold medal at Pyeongchang, more than 22.3 million people watched her do it.
Likewise, laws about THC and CBD, as well as public perception about cannabis, are changing rapidly. Stigmas are eroding. Weed, and snowboarders, don’t seem like quite the menaces they used to be.
Weed and snowboarding are both squarely in the mainstream now, and the connection between the athletes and the drug is being shaped by grown-up concerns like sponsorships, drug testing, and gender stereotypes.
SB Nation reached out to Madison Blackley, a professional rider for Bataleon Snowboards, to talk about her thoughts on cannabis, whether she feels it’s affected her career, and why she feels men are able to get away with cannabis use in a way that women are not. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
How is cannabis viewed in snowboarding?
Madison Blackley: I think marijuana and CBD use is actually viewed as pretty widely accepted, but on an underground level, almost. Like, we all know people use it, but we don’t really talk about it unless it’s in a joking way.
Do you feel like being open about your cannabis use has hindered your career at all?
MB: In my own career personally I believe it has hindered me, although maybe not substantially. I have throughout my career always been outspoken about weed and CBD because I personally don’t see the issue with it, and it is part of what I like to do. Plus there are medical benefits that help me as an athlete.
Do you think that it would have hindered your career if you were a guy?
MB: I know many men who are almost praised for it by their sponsors, and their sponsors have embraced it about them, and almost used it to benefit their image. I honestly can’t say whether it would be the same if I were a guy because just being a female in general hinders a snowboarder’s career.
I also think a lot of the stigma has to do with where you live. Colorado and Oregon have way different mentalities than the state that I live in, Utah, which is probably the biggest factor.
Would you say weed is part of snowboard and action sports culture?
MB: Weed is ingrained in snowboarding just for the fact the we spend most of our time with few people in the mountains for long periods of time. CDB is a fairly new thing that if it isn’t already a part of the culture, it will be from here on out. As far as action sports as a whole I can’t speak for that, like I’m not sure how many motocross people are stoned during competition, but I know plenty of skateboarders, snowboarders, and skiers who are.
Are other snowboarders cool with it?
MB: Yeah, snowboarders are cool with it even if they don’t do it.
Do you feel like weed helps you perform better?
MB: Even though I’m a complete advocate for weed and CBD, I personally don’t ride high on THC. CBD is different, but I don’t feel like it makes me a better snowboarder. In fact it makes me so less stressed out that I just get lazy about my riding standards. I prefer to use it as a celebratory relaxation method after a high-intensity day of snowboarding.
Does it make you more creative? Or is that just a stereotype?
MB: That is the cool thing about marijuana and CBD, there are so many different kinds that work so differently for so many people. While I enjoy indica [indica strains of cannabis are believed to be relaxing or sedating], many people enjoy sativa [sativas are said to provide a more invigorating response] which may make them more creative. But “weed makes you more creative” is 100 percent a stereotype. Sometimes it makes people hungry, sometimes it makes people more energetic, sometimes just sleepy. You can use it for whatever reason you want, and that’s why it’s cool.
Would you say it helps you look at your surroundings in a different light? And help you find different unique spots that you would otherwise overlook?
MB: This could be different than being creative, because I do agree that sometimes it can make me see things differently. Not in the way like “damn that seemed like a good idea when I was high” kind of idea, but it does open up some ways to approach things had I been thinking about it the night before when I was high. So I guess for me I would use weed as a planning tool beforehand rather than thinking creatively at the time of.
How do you see that culture evolving? Since snowboarding is now mainstream, and weed and CBD are on their way to becoming mainstream, do you notice the culture shifting and becoming more accepting? Less accepting? And why do you think that is?
MB: CBD is such an amazing thing that I’ve seen grow rapidly in just a few years, especially with recovery from injuries that come with sports. That alone is making it more accepted. With more states giving residents opportunity to legally learn and try different forms or THC and CBD people are making their own decisions on what their opinion is based on personal experience.
I mean there will always be those people that think snowboarders are just pot-smoking bums, but there are also plenty of successful athletes who don’t use at all, but they probably still go drink and party.
Top photos by Tristan Sadler, Jacqueline Lammert and Ted Borland.
A Q&A with Madison Blackley, a snowboarder who embraces cannabis