Jan
06
2010

What is a brief history of snowboarding?

Snowboarding flight - courtesy pincusvt - CC-BY

Snowboarding flight - courtesy pincusvt - CC-BY

Here we will have a fuzzy beginning. It is difficult to say who “invented” the first snowboard. People have always figured out how to slide down a snow covered hill on something, so it would be next to impossible to point out one specific person, who came up with “the first snowboard.” There are still many conflicting stories as to “who” was the actual pioneer of snowboarding

We do know some people, though, who built snowboard like sleds. One of them was M.J. “Jack” Burchett. He cut out a piece of plywood in 1929 secured his feet with some clothesline and horse reins and came up with one of the first “known snowboards.”

More than three decades passed between the first attempt at snowboarding and the next major break-through. In 1963, Tom Sims, an eighth grade student built what he called a “ski board” for his shop class. Again, it was made of plywood, thus the name ‘board.’

Two years after the introduction of the “ski board”, Sherman Poppen invented “The Snurfer.” ( “Snurfer” = “snow-surfer” ) This consisted of two skis being fastened together. Even though he originally made this as a toy for his children, he later organized events for competition. But the Snurfer as a mass market item disappeared as quickly as it had come.

Then in 1970 an east coast surfer had an idea while he was sliding around on some cafeteria trays in the snow of New York. He developed snowboards following the example of the new short surf boards.  He experimented with laminating glass and gravel on the board and also used nylon straps. His company “Winterstick” is considered as the first snowboard company.

Ski technology materials improved the gliding abilities of the boards, and later on, the first high-back bindings were added. Riders began taking off the fins, and slowly but surely, the “Snurfer” turned into a controllable “snowboard” and an accepted sport. In 1981, Ski Cooper in Leadville, Colorado, saw the first snowboard contest. One year later, the first National Snowboard Championships were held in Suicide Six near Woodstock, Vermont. Downhill racers were timed at 60 mph. Snowboarding is now a Winter Olympics event.

Snowboarding is growing at such a rate that skiing in the United States has dropped 25 percent. The number of boarders has risen 77% making it the fastest growing winter sport in America. Today, about 20% of people who visit U.S. ski resorts are snowboarders.  Projections for the year 2015 favor snowboarding as there will then be more people boarding than skiing.

For more information about the history of snowboarding

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