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Can I offer you a Red Bull? No, I'm good

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Like many, I'm counting down to opening day. I notice, though, that the intensity of the wait doesn't compare to when I was a teenager.

When I lived and breathed snowboarding, the wait was painful. Each day felt longer than usual.

Fresh snow in the morning was a thrilling event.

"It's dumping on the hill!" my dad would tell me.

I grew up in Kamloops — and my friends and I were obsessed. I cherished the videos, and looked forward to every issue of Snowboard Canada.

The late 1990s, early 2000s, we were all in.

What we wore, how we acted — all of it cribbed from the pros.

My favourite rider wasn't an original choice. It was Terje Haakonsen. Watching him ride a halfpipe for the first time was incredible. He seemed to defy gravity, flying out of an icy halfpipe with unparalleled, cat-like grace.

Forum had the dream team, with Peter Line, JP Walker and Jeremy Jones setting the standard for freestyle snowboarding.

And, incredibly, a kid from Kamloops was a part of its team.

Chris Dufficy — who went to my high school — was a hero.

But I'd say the biggest cultural force in our lives were the Wildcats. Made up of Devun Walsh, JF Pelchat, and a handful of other talented riders, the crew seemed to embody the rebellious spirit of snowboarding

Their movie — Lil Bastards — opened to a DMX song.

And it only got cooler from there.

It looked like someone filmed it on a camcorder.

There wasn't the same reverence for the perfect shots, the blue skies and untracked landings we've come to expect.

If the lens was fogged and the light was bad, they didn't care.

Things seem way different now.

The obvious change, I think, is the involvement of energy drinks.

Monster Energy, Red Bull and Rockstar Energy boast some of the best teams on the planet.

They also sponsor major contests and snowboard parks.

My home mountain, Sun Peaks, now has the "Rockstar Energy Terrain Park." (No one calls it that.)

It's difficult to put my finger on what's so annoying about their involvement.

There is, of course, the public-health angle: energy drinks are unhealthy, and they're undoubtedly contributing to America's obesity epidemic.

But then again, you could say the same thing about partying — something my snowboard heroes unabashedly promoted.

The energy drink companies, I think, have gentrified the sport.

Even if a rider's branding is discreet, being aligned with Big Energy seems like a misstep, antithetical to the spirit of the sport.

In recent years, there seems to be a growing resistance. Drink Water — a brand (if you can call it that) — is a response.

The company's founders, both respected pros, have been articulate foils. "I didn't want to endorse and sell a product to kids that I didn't use," explained Austin Smith in interview with Wideopen: UK Mountain Biking, about the time Red Bull tried to sponsor him.

"The overall vibe of energy drinks is jocks and monster trucks — not for me," he said.

Meanwhile, the skateboard industry is in the midst of a reckoning of its own.

For years, Mountain Dew has sponsored top skaters, producing slick branded content. But a number of the sport's most influential skaters have started a healthy alternative — a coconut water drink company called Villager.

A couple pro snowboarders, Todd Richards and Pat Moore, are now in the mix.

Paul Rodriguez, one of skateboarding's highest-paid athletes, left Mountain Dew to become a "villager," citing his desire to consume healthy products and extend his career.

Energy drinks aren't cigarettes. And one can't really bemoan a snowboarder who chooses to take the money and run — God knows, if I was in their position, I probably would, too.

Their involvement, however, has undeniably changed the sport — and not in a cool way.

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