Professional Snowboarder

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.

There is no formal education required to be a professional snowboarder. However, first things first: take lessons. And practice as much as possible. These are the two most important things when starting out.

"You have to set goals for yourself," says pro snowboarder Louie Vito, "but I think you progress in snowboarding more by having fun with [friends] and pushing each other than [you do by] going out there and trying to train to be a pro."

Planning to become a snowboarding instructor? Get in touch with the U.S. Snowboard Instructor's Association and find out what levels of certification you need. Most people get an entry-level job at a ski slope and work their way up from there.

One thing to bear in mind is that many slopes get lots of tourists, so learning a second language such as German or Japanese would work in your favor.

As with almost any field these days, computer skills can be useful. There is a behind-the-scenes business side to every sport, and that may be where you end up.

And while there is no formal education to being a pro snowboarder, it helps to think about what you would if the pro-snowboarding career doesn't work out. You might find yourself working in another part of the industry.

"Most smart ex-pro snowboarders -- and ex-semi-pros, like myself, who didn't make it all the way to full pro -- find themselves in the snowboard industry after they 'retire,'" says Scott Birke. He is now the editor of a snowboarding magazine.

Earnings: Professional AthleteRegionAverage Annual EarningsAverage Hourly EarningsU.S. National$79,460

Employment Stats: Professional AthleteRegionOutlook2008 Workforce2008 to 2018 Growth RateU.S. NationalStable16,50011.8%

Internet Sites

Occupational Employment Statistics
The OES has labor market data on over 700 careers
Snowboarding site for kids with games, cartoons and more
Board reviews, gallery of photos, boarding tips, and information on resorts and events

Snowboard World Cup
The best of the best

"It's just fun for me," says pro snowboarder Louie Vito. "Nothing beats waking up and going snowboarding every day rather than going into a 9-to-5 job. There is always something I can learn or do differently...."

"I get to stay active and do something fun while most are afraid to go outside," says Natasha Paterson, a snowboarder and snowboard instructor. "I love the mountains and in the winter, there is no better way to enjoy them."

"Everything, really," says Scott Birke when asked what he gets out of snowboarding. Birke is the editor of a snowboarding magazine. "There's nothing better than seeing one-inch diameter snowflakes before going to bed at night and then waking up to a foot of fresh snow and bluebird skies.