Official sport bill delayed


Friday, April 3
BRATTLEBORO -- The state flower of Vermont is the red clover. The sugar maple is the official tree of the Green Mountain State.

And within the next year, several legislators hope to make snowboarding the official sport of Vermont, while others are pushing to designate both snowboarding and skiing as the state symbols.

One bill currently sitting in the General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee proposes to make snowboarding the official sport of Vermont, citing the importance the sport plays in the economic and historical well-being of the state.

Rep. Brian Savage, R-Swanton, co-sponsored the measure. He said snowboarding is an up-and-coming sport that is already nationally identified with Vermont, considering the state has played a central role in its development.

"Snowboarding and skiing are both linked to Vermont, so I think anything that promotes sports anytime of the year is good for the state," he said.

Students from Swanton Central School first conceived the idea in the 2007-2008 legislative session after their physical education teacher Greg Carpenter developed a game of tag involving Vermont-related symbols into his curriculum.

"It's a great way to do cardio, but it's also a great way to teach kids about their state," said Carpenter.

After that, his students became very interested in Vermont's symbols and wanted to explore options on obtaining an official sport for the state.

Carpenter and the students teamed up with fellow teacher Kirsten Belrose to brainstorm ideas, speaking with former Democratic Sen. Don Collins of Franklin County.

After narrowing the opinions down to snowboarding based on its uniqueness, history and importance to Vermont, the students testified in February 2008. A duplicate bill was re-introduced earlier this session after last year's failed to pick up in the Legislature.

No state has designated snowboarding alone as its official sport. Colorado has skiing and snowboarding as its state sports.

But during the last session in the Legislature, a similar measure to make snowboarding and skiing the official sports of Vermont passed the Senate before yielding in the House. That bill was re-introduced this year and is also trapped in the General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee expectedly for the remainder of the session.

"We haven't taken either one up. I don't think its going to be this year, maybe next year," said Savage.

Committee member John Moran, D-Wardsboro, said both skiing and snowboarding advocates have brought up this idea, as well as lobbyists from the snowmobiling industry. At some point, the Legislature may look at the opinions, but Moran said he wouldn't hold his breath on it this session.

"I think we'll never settle on one sport as the official sport for Vermont, but that's just my opinion," he said.

Invariably, someone asks if Vermont can really have two athletic symbols.

Supporters point to Vermont's present three state rocks (granite, marble and slate), as well as the two state minerals (talc and grossular garnet).

"So there is a precedent of having more than one thing designated in one particular category," said Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Associations.

Riehle said he thought the student's work was great, but was only half the picture.

"If you're going to have one, you really should have both of them," said Riehle. "We're very much in favor of the one that has both skiing and snowboarding instead of picking just one."

Both skiing and snowboarding have a long history in the state.

In 1934, the country's first ski area opened outside of Woodstock when the first rope tow ski lift was installed, leading to the nation's first ski race on Mount Mansfield the same year.

Four years later, C. Minot Dole founded the National Ski Patrol in Vermont, using his model to convince the U.S. Army to activate a division of soldiers on skis.

The Suicide Six Resort in Pomfret was the first American resort to allow snowboarding in 1982. Vermont was also the first state to host a snowboard park.

Additionally, Vermont resident Jake Burton Carpenter founded the first snowboard company in 1977 and perfected the technology to build the boards. Today, the Burlington-based corporation is an international leader in the manufacturing and sales of snowboards and equipment.

A number of Vermonters have excelled in the Winter Olympic games as well, from skier Barbara Ann's gold medal in 1972 to the first-place snowboarding victories by Hannah Teter, Ross Powers and West Dover's Kelly Clark.

"Both (sports) had their beginnings here in Vermont, and I think that the bill really is a great way to celebrate the heritage and long-standing history in the state," said Riehle.

With both pieces of legislation sitting in committee during a difficult budgetary session coupled with the controversial same-sex marriage bill, lawmakers do not expect to tackle the state sport issue until the 2010 session.

Nevertheless, supporters look forward to the day they can strap on their boards, knowing their "totally righteous" activity is the symbol of Vermont sports.

"I'd be ecstatic, I think it's exactly what we need to do," said Carpenter. "As a physical educator, I can't think of a better way to promote activity throughout the world, to have a symbol that people want to come do in our state."

Chris Garofolo can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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