Much work ahead for ski, snowboard industries

The origins of Labour Day date back to April of 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized the first North American ‘workingman’s demonstration’ of any significance. About 10,000 Torontonians turned out for a parade and to listen to speeches calling for the abolition of the law that decreed trade unions were criminal conspiracies in restraint of trade.

Labour Day doesn’t carry quite the same weight today. For most of us it signals the end of summer, one final long weekend before going back to school or work and preparing for a winter of labour that lies ahead.

In this neck of the smoldering woods, Labour Day signals the start of the scramble to get ready for the ski season, which starts in just two and a half months. Brains shift gears on the Tuesday after Labour Day, as we realize summer is effectively over, fall is almost upon us and we search for winter forecasts to validate our faith that the snow will be deep and plentiful this winter.

It was while making this mental transition over the Labour Day weekend that I stumbled across a television news story about how oversize racquets have changed the sport of tennis. This was a news story, not sports.

The story was produced by CNN and aired locally on B.C. CTV. It coincided with the first week of the U.S. Open tennis tournament and the retirement of American tennis star Pete Sampras, who told CNN how the serve and volley game was disappearing with the large racquets.

It’s not that I have anything against tennis, but this was considered news. Admittedly, news is scarce during the summer months. Governments are in recess, people are on holidays, decisions are postponed. And perhaps B.C. CTV, in airing the CNN segment, was looking for some relief from forest fire news stories. But I had to wonder, what are the chances of a story about how shaped skis have changed that sport appearing on network television news?

Thus I began my Labour Day labouring to compare two leisurely pursuits, which have, in fact, become industries.

How is it I even know about Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, the Williams sisters and others when I don’t follow or play tennis? That’s part of the difference between tennis and skiing/snowboarding; there is a hierarchy of stars and personalities in tennis and the general public recognize these people. Tennis stars can also build and show off their personalities on the court.

Skiing and boarding stars, on the other hand, are either "cool dudes" who are satisfied with their status in the minute world of extreme skiing and boarding, or they are Europeans with little recognition on this side of the Atlantic. How many people outside of Whistler could name two top-level skiers or boarders?

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