When brother and sister Rick Putnam and Jill McGary started SnowProfessor.com, a website featuring snowboard lesson videos, they had no idea what they were onto. Since they began shooting videos in 2008, SnowProfessor has garnered more than 5 million views around the world.
The idea was spawned when the duo realized there were not a lot of good ways to learn snowboarding online. Sure, you could find endless videos of professionals doing tricks that no average person could do, but there was nothing available that taught people in a simple and straightforward way how to snowboard. This gap in educational material is what put McGary and Putnam to work.
“Instead of just seeing entertainment or watching someone do something a normal person couldn’t do, we wanted to teach people,” said McGary.
A former member of the Junior National Team, McGary has been snowboarding since she was 10 years old, when she learned from Putnam and their father. After years of snowboarding, McGary and Putnam got “big kid” jobs, they say, but their passion for the sport never died, and they looked for a way to pass that passion on to others.
They began filming the SnowProfessor videos and putting them online, unsure of what kind of reception the videos would receive. With an intentionally corny style geared for, as Putnam put it, “nerdy Gen-Xers,” the videos offer an approachable, practical way to learn how to snowboard. Each video, starring the brother-and-sister duo, is a lesson that offers step-by-step how-tos. Featuring 36 videos in all, McGary and Putnam showcase tips ranging from the most basic beginner skills to expert-level tricks.
The videos are free, and the two earn only a small amount from advertising on the site. “It’s about helping people, not about being a successful business of its own,” said McGary.
Although they put many hours into creating each video, including writing scripts, filming and editing, they never intended to profit from the experience. Because of this, the popularity of the videos has been entirely grassroots, with success stories popping up all over the world.
One of those stories comes from Ontario. Russ Godfrey and his daughter Chloë learned how to snowboard from the SnowProfessor videos. When she was 7, Chloë asked her father if they could learn to snowboard. Russ began a Google and YouTube hunt to find the best videos to learn from, and it wasn’t long before he came across SnowProfessor.com.
“It’s groundbreaking,” says Godfrey. “It’s so easy and it’s so common sense.”
Together, father and daughter watched the nine introductory videos and took to the hills. As a former skier, Russ was very comfortable on a snowboard, and—thanks in part to SnowProfessor—Chloë was easily making turns by her second day.
Godfrey couldn’t be happier with his experience, and with an older son who snowboards and wife who skis, the family has spent a lot of quality time together on the slopes.
It’s success stories like the Godfreys’ that make McGary the proudest. Frustration is one of the hardest things for people to overcome, she says, and her biggest goal is to help viewers move past that.
“When I was first learning to snowboard, I was struggling really badly, and I remember this guy rode by me and stopped and gave me some tips that really helped,” said McGary. “I always remember that because I felt helpless, and that one tip helped me learn how to do it. I hope we can do that for other people.”
With more than 5 million views online, it’s hard to argue that McGary and Putnam have done anything but help people. Look no further than Chloë, now 12: Her goal is to be an Olympic snowboarder. Perhaps someday she’ll look back and say she got to the Olympics thanks to SnowProfessor.
Visit snowprofessor.com and get tips and tricks from the experts.