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Skiing and Snowboarding

Downhill (Alpine) skiing and snowboarding are popular winter sports in those areas of the United States that are accessible to snow covered mountains. The northeastern United States, especially the northern Appalachian reaches of the states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, offers dozens of ski resorts within easy reach of many major population centers. Killington, Stowe and Mount Snow in Vermont are among the best known; New York State’s Lake Placid has hosted the international Winter Olympics on more than one occasion. In the western United States, Colorado resorts such as Aspen, Winter Park, and Vail, Utah’s Park City and Alta, and California’s Squaw Valley (which has also hosted the Winter Olympics) are extremely popular. Nearly all American states have some sort of ski area or resort, although these predominate in the northern regions of the country.

Cross-country (Nordic) skiing also has its fans, in areas that see sufficient snow. In America, the world of cross-country and the world of downhill skiing do not mix much. Each sport requires equipment and clothing that are not usable for the other. Both have diehard fans. Downhill skiing and its necessary equipment are expensive, especially when factoring in travel and lodging costs. Equipment for Nordic skiing is less expensive, and, for many devotees, travel is less elaborate, since facilities need not be located in mountainous areas.

Ski resorts in the United States, as elsewhere, might be highly fashionable, offering full lifestyle amenities including health clubs, nightlife, fine restaurants, and, of course, shops that sell the latest in ski styles to wear both on and off the slopes. Other resorts cater to families with children, yet others to adventure travel and ski touring. Public Alpine ski areas tend to be small, yet they are excellent places to learn the sport. Since the cost of creating and maintaining Nordic ski trails is substantially less than that of an Alpine resort, public and state-run cross-country ski areas are often substantial.

For decades, many Alpine ski venues banned or restricted snowboarding, but the sport has become fairly well established today. Snowboarding was for many years considered something of a rebel youth subculture, with its own vocabulary and cultural references, but it has now progressed to the stage of being an accepted recreational and competition sport. In all ski varieties and in snowboarding, American athletes compete, often on the world stage and in the Olympic Games. Exhibitions of gravity-defying acrobatic skill by both skiers and snowboarders have a wide following, in person and on television.

The United States Ski and Snowboard Association, founded in 1905, sanctions all Olympic-level skiing programs, events, and competitions in the United States, including the Nordic events. The Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) oversees training and certification of most American ski instructors, Alpine or Nordic. The related American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) sets standards for snowboarding.

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