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What They Do

Athletes and Sports Competitors Career Video

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The life of a snowboarder is an exciting one. After all, their job involves racing down snowy hills on a fiberglass or wooden board.

Snowboarding is like skiing, but a snowboarder's hands are free (they don't use poles like skiers do), and both their legs are on the same board. Snowboarding originated in the U.S. in the '60s. Now it is one of today's most popular sports. Professional snowboarders compete in contests and get sponsored by companies.

Some boarders even make it to the Olympics! Snowboarding became an Olympic sport in 1998.

Like skiing, there are different types of snowboarding: freestyle, slalom, racing and free-ride, to name a few.

There are a few other ways to make a living in the snowboarding business. You can become a snowboarding instructor. And you can design and manufacture snowboarding clothing. Some people also design the actual snowboards.

Professional snowboarders have sporadic hours. If you're traveling to competitions or putting on demonstrations, it can feel like a 24-7 job. There may also be slow periods where you just practice as much as you feel is needed.

But how do competitive snowboarders make money? And is this a realistic way to make a living?

Scott Birke is the editor of a snowboarding magazine. He says earnings will vary widely.

"Most pro snowboarders make their money off of a monthly salary from a certain company to ride and endorse their product," he says. "The company then uses their image in ads and hopes these riders are getting exposure through magazine and TV. They pay out an additional bonus called 'photo incentive,' where a pro gets a set, agreed-upon payout rate per size of photo, that ideally displays the sponsors company's logo prominently.

"Some contracts have a matched-winnings clause for contests, where a sponsor matches the prize purse a rider earns when winning or placing in a contest. And, in rare occasions, some pros with signature-model products get a percentage off of the sales of their models."

With so many different types of contracts, it's not surprising that there is no standard salary.

"It could be anywhere from slightly less than $1,000-a-month salary plus photo incentive, which are almost always in contracts, to in the millions annually for the top riders," Birke says.

"A lot make money through contests, but some pros also don't compete," says snowboarder and snowboard instructor Natasha Paterson.

"Some make money through sponsorships, but normally you are a pretty big name before a sponsor will pay you. Most of the time you just get paid in new boards, boots, etc. Some boarders also make money with movie spots and such, but, again, they are normally pretty big-name people."

At a Glance

Surf the ski slopes

  • Snowboarding is one of the fastest-growing sports
  • There are a few different career options in the sport
  • You'll need lots of practice