15 seconds to fame: How Instagram turned the snowboard world on its head

Story and Photos by BRADY McCARTHY

Facing a potential avalanche of unhappy snowboarders and the snowboarding industry as a whole, production companies and even ski resorts are in the midst of a change of seismic proportions on how they promote snowboarding.

In the past, snowboard media has been consumed through magazine subscriptions, “ski porn” movie releases by production crews every fall and online videos posted to websites such as Snowboarder.com.

But Instagram turned that all upside down five years ago in a shift that leveled the slopes. The social-media platform effectively democratized the self-promotion and exposure of the elite and those clawing their way to the top of the sport.

In June 2013 the social-media platform started to allow users to post 15-second videos, and with that Instagram changed from being a photo-sharing platform to primarily video sharing. Users were then able to receive instant gratification — and responses — by opening up the app and simply scrolling down through 15-second videos.

Soon these 15-second videos became one of the main ways to view snowboard media, allowing snowboarders to share and view snowboarding media without spending as much time — or money — consuming them.

“It allows up-and-coming snowboarders to get more exposure and make a name for themselves,” Gnu Snowboards Mid Atlantic rider, Cameron Dunmyer, said about the introduction of videos to instagram.


Cameron Dunmyer by a street spot at sunset, February 2017. Photo by Brady McCarthy

Independent snowboard production companies began to decline a decade ago. Today, they are almost obsolete. Ian Macy, the content creator and video content specialist for Woodward Copper and Terrain park Marketing Coordinator for Seven Springs, Pa., said production companies aren’t receiving the same backing from snowboard companies to “buy-in” their riders to the movie.

“The amount of full-production snowboard video crews in the last five years has dropped significantly,” Macy said.

In the past, companies’ underwriting money would not only pay for companies’ rider’s participation, but the entire production, from film crews and their equipment to travel and other expenses. Instagram and other social-media platforms have eroded much of that spending as companies realize they get more reach — and their dollar goes farther — with brand videos and other content distributed over social media.

Instead, snowboard companies increasingly turn to contract filmmakers, who are now paid to produce online content and even full-team movies, because they then have complete control over the project rather than underwrite independent film crews.

In an attempt to stay relevant, video crew Absinthe Films has leveraged social media in promoting their new project. Last year Absinthe had to resort to crowdfunding after struggling to keep people interested and in turn receive enough money to produce their project, Turbo Dojo.

This year they have been incorporating social media and live streams of filming sessions at famous spots with big-name riders, allowing the consumer to get a behind the scenes look at the filming process. This method of presenting media has also proved to keep potential consumers excited about the upcoming project.

Independent film companies aren’t the only ones taking advantage of social media as a marketing strategy. The No. 1 park on the East Coast, according to Transworld Snowboarding’s 2017 Park Poll, Seven Springs has decided to switch their media marketing to only involve social media for the 2017-2018 season.


The Seven Springs sign illuminated by Christmas lights. Photo courtesy of Tanner Scott.

Historically, Seven Springs released a web series on Snowboarder.com, “The Seven Deadly Edits.”  Macy explained people aren’t watching those videos the way they did just five years ago. He also said that single Instagram clips of one trick are getting more views, likes and comments than a full three-minute video that required more effort, meeting internal demand for more viewers.

“If it’s the right thing and it’s presented a certain way, it could blow that typical three minute edit out of the water,” Macy said.

Macy said it’s hard to predict the future of snowboarding media, but there isn’t consensus when it comes to consumers’ tastes. He said a mix of the old and new ways of presenting snowboarding will work the best.

Instead of filming for a video and incorporating social media into the process, some productions are being released incrementally as videos throughout the year. DC Transistors and Forest Bailey’s FSBS are two examples of video projects being released throughout the year highlighting specific trips that would usually constitute a full movie.


“DC Transistors” crew member Jordan Morse at the Rail Gardens. Photo by Brady McCarthy

It’s also forced filming to start earlier in the year for riders in the DC crew.  Brady Lem, a DC Transistors crew member, said he wasn’t excited at first about the early street mission experience in “DC Transistors Episode 1: The Early Hunt.”

“Kinda was bummed on going on a street trip this early at first, but now looking back on it I’m pretty excited that we did it,” Lem said.

Think Thank, a film production company known for its creative take on snowboarding videos, has taken a similar approach but with a different layout. The company’s project this year, “Falling Leaf,” has followed riders throughout their travels. Think Thank now releases “Leafs” at certain points throughout the season.

What makes their project different from others is that it’s presented in a mini-magazine format on the internet. The “Leafs” include photos, videos and text allowing the best of all forms of media that can be quickly accessed by viewers without giving up the interactive experience of a magazine or movie.

“I mean the short of it is that riders are more in control of content now because movies are less viable,” said Justin “Stan” Leville, host of the popular snowboarding news show, “Last Resort With Stan.”


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