Snowboarding's increased popularity leaves skiing out in the cold


Snowboardaci' or 'Snowboarders' as it is known in English was the biggest-grossing Czech film of last year. It was an unexpected smash hit, making several of its young actors into idols among the nation's teenagers. For generations, skiing has been taught by Czech schools. But now in the wake of the film's success, many pupils are demanding snowboarding lessons instead. Rosie Johnston has the story.

SnowboardaciSnowboardaci 'On My Head' by Dan Barta was the title track from the Snowboardaci soundtrack. It's been all over the airwaves since the film's release in early November. So far, over half a million people have seen Snowboardaci at the cinema, and many of them - especially teenagers - have been inspired to take up the sport. Eliska Rafajova is a sports teacher at the Opatov Gymnazium in Prague. She is qualified to teach her students snowboarding, and explains why they prefer this to learning how to ski:

"They find skiing a bit boring because it is the sport of their parents and the other adults, so they really like snowboarding because it differentiates them from their parents, and of course there is this new film in Czech cinemas, Snowboard'aci."

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Even before the release of Snowboardaci, snowboarding was becoming increasingly popular in the Czech Republic. There are now nine specialized snowboarding pistes in the county - and not enough snowboarding instructors to meet the demand. But with so many young people taking up the sport, parents are asking just how safe snowboarding actually is. Eliska Rafajova again:

"I think when taught and learnt properly, snowboarding is no more dangerous than skiing. It's so new and exciting."

So, three months on and the film is still in the top ten, its popularity unabated. But with its fan base consisting mainly of today's teenagers - who remain unqualified when it comes to actually teaching snowboarding - it may take a decade or two before we witness a real change on our slopes.