Flying down the mountain slopes on a new snowboard is a wintery adrenaline rush. You soar through the air as you try new tricks and tackle challenging slopes.
But where did the snowboard come from?
The history of snowboarding is one of those things many people don’t often think of. For those around 30 years or younger, snowboarding is just a part of life.
For those who’ve been around a while, you may remember the years when snowboarding wasn’t the cool-thing-to-do.
Well, snowboarding has a bit of a quirky history. But what when it comes to iconic sports, what doesn’t?
The history of snowboarding experiences great highs and low lows as it tries to establish itself as a sport. New inventions lead to creative innovations. Some ideas are successful while others diminish in their infancy.
Here’s how snowboarding sprung from humble beginnings to become the edgy and iconic sport it is today.
History of Snowboarding
Let’s rewind to the roaring 1920s. If you visit the slopes, you’re bound to find sleds, toboggans, and the all-popular downhill skiing.
With the number of items to slide down a hill on, it’s surprising the idea of the snowboard didn’t come along sooner. That’s not to say someone didn’t try standing while riding a single board or sled down a hill.
You’ll hear stories of people using a single plank to slide along a snow mountain dating back to the 16th century. Others will tell you snowboarding began with the knappencross in Austria in the 1800s.
To be honest, the beginnings of snowboarding are a little muddy.
There’s a common story that a man by the name of M.J. Burchett decided to cut out a piece of plywood back in 1929. He tied his feet to it with line and straps and proceeded to slide down a snowy hill.
Others will tell you snowboarding started in Austria in the 1800s. More believe village people from the 16th century would slide down the snowy hillsides on a piece of wood.
This collection of stories comes from all over. While no one invented the snowboard yet, the idea of the snowboard was in existence.
Humble Beginnings 30 Years Later
Fast forward 30 years to 1965. The first recorded person in history to hop on a snowboard-like object was Sherman Poppen. The Michigan man braced a pair of skis together and tied a rope to the front.
On Christmas, his daughter opens her gift to find the new surfing-meets-snow toy. Poppen teaches her how to slide down their snow-covered hill. His wife, Nancy, coins the name the “Snurfer,” and the first snowboard is born.
Neighborhood children would see it and wanted one, too. Poppen ran with the idea and sold around one million Snurfers by 1976. With the growing popularity, Poppen starts hosting a small Snurfer competition in Michigan. It attracts snowboarders from all over, including young Tom Sims who plays a big role in the history of snowboarding a few years later.
The Snurfer was more than a kid’s delightful way to surf through the snow. It was an inspiration to future snowboarding innovators.
From College Dropout to Snow Surfboard Patents
The history of snowboarding continues into 1970. Dimitrije Milovich, a surfer from the East coast, was attending Cornell University when he learned about the snowboarding sensation from his friend, Wayne Stoveken.
Shortly thereafter, he dropped out, moved to Utah, and worked on his prototype. A year later, he gets a patent for his idea. Both Milovich and Stoveken set off manufacturing and selling their “Snow Surfboard.” The popular brand name, Wintersticks began.
The new sport proved to be difficult to propel forward as retailers weren’t interested in the sport. By 1987, their doors closed for good.
Later, another firm revived Wintersticks, but Milovich is not involved with the company.
The Burton-Sims Years
Now we’re in Londonderry, Vermont. The year is 1977 and Jake Burton Carpenter is on a mission to introduce his Snurfboard, the Burton Board.
What sets his board apart from its predecessors are the foot attachments. His early snowboard boot bindings allow the snowboarder to secure their feet to the board for better balance and longer control. If you’re a snowboarder, you know just how important the snowboard binding is.
At the same time, West Coast skateboarder, Tom Sims, starts selling his own Snurfboard. Both men face resistance as ski resorts and skiers frown upon the sport. But they keep pushing on.
Their hard work pays off leading to the Burton-Sims Wars. Both are successful companies on both sides of the country and rival for snowboarding supremacy. Their need to be the best lead to innovation and creative marketing, along with a fair share of bickering.
During the ‘90s, Sims returns surfing leaving business-savvy Burton on top of the snowboarding mountain. Sims Snowboards continues under Collective Licensing.
What you see a lot of is the popular Burton brand. Their brand spans across a variety of snowboarding and skiing accessories and gear.
National Snow Surfing Becomes Real
The National Snow Surfing Championships played a big role in the history of snowboarding. However, you wouldn’t expect it when you see a kitchen table used as a starting gate and hay bales as crash-pads.
But in 1982, close to 200 contestants travel up to the hills of central Vermont. Paul Graves organizes the event and gain interest from Jake Burton and TV shows such as Good Morning America and The Today Show.
Burton takes over the event in 1985 moving it to Stratton, renaming it to the U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship. The Snowboarding Championship continues today. It brings thousands of people together to compete and watch the snowboarding events.
The Snow Surfing Sensation of the ‘80s
While snowboarding gains in popularity during the ’80s, another man gets an idea. Snowboarding needed a way to make the sport sound like more than a fad.
Tom Hsieh’s magazine, Absolutely Radical, debuts in March of 1985. One issue later it’s renamed the International Snowboard Magazine.
It shows the latest innovations in snowboarding while writers and reviewers test the newest snowboards. It shares the hottest gossip in the snowboarding industry.
The magazine legitimizes the sport of snowboarding without adding the excess frills. The stories were real and the main source of competition and contest information.
As the history of snowboarding continues, the International Snowboard Magazine comes to end. But not without making an impact on the sport of snowboarding.
Ski Resorts Welcome Snowboarding
A big problem early snowboarders face is finding a place to snowboard. Ski hills and resorts didn’t welcome snowboarders on their slopes due to liability and the rebel culture it’s associated with.
The young teenage snowboarder of the ‘80s was a renegade. They dressed in eccentric outfits, cut chairlift lines, curse, and act as teenagers are want to do. They’re actions proved to annoy and upset the clean-cut ski clientele at the resorts.
So how do you convince high-end skiers and resorts that snowboarding is a legitimate sport? You start a campaign.
The snowboarding campaign starts in the mid-‘80s convincing ski resorts and slopes to allow snowboarding. They meet resistance at first, but the ski resorts start to let snowboarders in. Some hills would require a certification test or waiver before snowboarders could hit the slopes.
Around 476 ski resorts welcomed snowboarders by the early 1990s. There are still a few ski resorts in the United States today that continue to prohibit snowboarding.
Snowboarding in the Grungy ‘90s
While most dates throughout the history of snowboarding are important, 1990 marked the start of the International Snowboard Foundation or the ISF. At the time, it consisted of 5 countries and over 100 snowboarders.
Bringing competitive snowboarders together and setting competition standards were the main goals of the IFC. Other associations such as the USA Snowboard Association, helped write competition guidelines and events throughout the United States.
The grunge years also brought in an exciting new idea to the history of snowboarding: the halfpipe.
Well, the idea actually starts in the mid-‘80s, but the halfpipes then were poorly built and too difficult to maintain. It’s not until the ‘90s that Dough Waugh, a farmer, uses his giant farming equipment to dig a halfpipe out of large piles of snow.
Waugh’s farm machinery makes cutting and maintaining the snow quick and easy. He dubbed his first pipe the Pipe Dragon.
More and more half pipes and terrain parks popped up at resorts and on the slopes. This farm-based technology paves the way for freestyle snowboarding.
The grunge decade began the start of snowboarding videos. If you think it sounds niche, well, it was at the time. But both snowboarding and its videos boosted snowboarders’ fame, recorded the latest new tricks and difficult terrain.
Take Johan Olofsson, for example. This young Swedish man shows off his death-defying tricks, shreds, and major air in the 4-minute episodes of Standard Films TB5. The videos caught the raw aggression and energy the sport of snowboarding has to offer.
Snowboarding’s Big Debut: The Olympics
You know your sport is legit when it makes it to the Olympics. It took a couple of decades, but by1998, snowboarding made its appearance in the Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
This exciting step for snowboarding turned out to be controversial. One of the world’s best snowboarders from Norway boycotted the games. Then Canada’s gold-medalist tested positive for marijuana.
That’s only the start of the drama.
2 United States female Olympic competitors refused to wear their team apparel during breakfast causing more stir. A couple of coached turned out to not snowboard themselves.
Despite snowboarding’s rocky introduction to the Olympics, the sport continued to grow. By 1999, over 6 million people all over the world are shredding the slopes on their snowboards.
A Shaun White Era
Whether you’re a snowboarder or not, you’ve heard of world-renowned snowboarder, Shaun White. White took the 2006 Olympics by storm claiming a Gold Medal for his halfpipe performance.
He gains attention from the Rolling Stones and lands his photo on the cover of the reputable magazine.
His talent wasn’t limited to the halfpipe. During that 2006 season, he won all 12 contests he entered. These include 5 Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers, a gold medal in Torino, and 2 Winter X Games.
In mid-March, he attempts the U.S. Open and wins both the slopestyle and halfpipe events. These final wins complete his perfect season. No other world-renown snowboarder had aver achieved a perfect season like Shaun White.
Almost 100 Years Later
The 2019-2020 snowboarding season is almost upon us, and the sport of snowboarding is still booming.
Find your unique niche in one of the many styles of snowboarding. They range from recreational to professional snowboarding.
Enjoy Freeriding on un-groomed trails and rugged terrain in the backcountry. Show off your snowboarding tricks while your Freestyle.
Looking for speed and no tricks? Alpine snowboarding is one of the first Olympic snowboarding events. It’s more ski-like and allows for speed and carving.
Big air is for the adventurous and daring snowboarder. As the name suggests, snowboarders go for height and distance while performing clean landings. Mix tricks and flips for an extra challenge.
Make snowboarding feel more like skateboarding by taking advantage of the half-pipe. Catch air and perform your favorite tricks on this innovative snow ramp.
Another speedy style is Snowboard Racing. Test your agility, dexterity, and speed on the slope. You can choose from a single person, multiple people, and parallel courses depending on the challenge you’re looking for.
There are plenty more snowboard styles out there. If you don’t want to compete, snowboarding is an awesome sport for exercise, meeting people, and enjoying the winter months.
The History of Snowboarding Continues…
The history of snowboarding shows how humble, rocky, and exciting the sport can be. If you’re snowboarding, you’re making history in the snowboarding world.
New technology and safety features make snowboarding a fun and safe sport for the whole family. Not to mention the ability to safely attempt more challenging snowboarding maneuvers.