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For A Real Lift, Strap This To Your Feet


Personal Business: Snowboarding

FOR A REAL LIFT, STRAP THIS TO YOUR FEET

You're having a nice leisurely run down your favorite ski trail, when suddenly you're cut off by one of those swooshing snowboarders. "Damn crazy teenager," you snarl to yourself--until you catch up with the interloper at the lift and find out that his or her hair has considerable gray.

Yes, that's right. More and more adults are embracing the fastest-growing winter sport. Where snowboarding was once the province of teenage, mostly male "shredders" in grunge outfits, now about 25% of board fans are over 25 and some 30% are women. Unlike the teens, many of whom had never skied, older boarders tend to be former skiers who switched because of age, boredom, or both.

WRIST GUARDS. Just ask Al Preliasco, a 45-year-old computer engineer from Marlboro, Mass., who took up boarding three years ago. "The thing I always liked about skiing was the carving turns, but it got tougher as I got older," he says. Preliasco believes snowboarding is easier to learn, adding, "it's all about turns--you can't go straight." That's because you stand sideways, as you would on a skateboard. Turns are executed by leaning backward or forward.

Instructors say it's often easier to get the hang of it if you've never tried skiing. But learning can be risky. Beginners are more likely to fracture a bone than experts are--just the opposite of skiing. And the most vulnerable point is the wrist: Boarders are seven times as likely to break one as skiers, because they tend to use their hands to break a fall. So if you try this sport, wear wrist guards.

Skiers making the switch usually prefer stiff, so-called alpine boards--the best for carving turns. Teenagers like softer freestyle boards that let them do spins and other stunts. Both cost from $300 to $700, with an additional $200 to $400 for proper boots.

Not everyone is pleased with the boarding craze. Skiers complain that boarders cut them off, and several ski areas, most of them in Utah, have banned snowboards. But 90% of resorts allow them, and many are building special snowboard areas. The industry is hoping that, as boarders continue to age, they will learn some respect. After all, teenage skiers can be just as reckless as teenage boarders, so it may be the demographics, not the mode, that's ticking skiers off.Catherine Arnst


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