As part II of my snowboarding series, I wanted to explain how the industry started but snowboarding only came after skiing, so I guess I have to start with that! I love research projects and learning something new, so I did a short search on how both sports came to be. Please feel free to add in the comments other things you know about skiing or snowboarding history or let me know if I got something wrong…I swear I wont be offended!
Skiing got it’s starts a LOOOOOOOOOOONG time ago! Although, when it first appeared on record, it wasn’t even close to what we consider skiing to be like today. Back then, it was invented purely for means of transportation, hunting, and fighting.
A quick and simple timeline:
4000 BC – Carvings found on rock walls in Norway that illustrated the use of skis in ancient civilizations.
Up until 450 AD: Ski artifacts were found all over Northern European and Asian countries but it wasn’t until 200 AD that the first documentation of using skis was recorded in China.
Over the next several hundreds of years, archeologists found carvings and documents all on the use of skis – mostly for actual transportation, military, and hunting; not for recreation.
Skis weren’t developed for sport until the 1700’s in Norway. Back then, people were only mounted to the ski by the toes.
In the 1800’s the first skiing competitions were developed. The first down hill race took place in Oslo, as skiing was being developed for military, in 1860.
In the 1900’s skiing grew in popularity in European Countries.
1924 – the first winter olympics in Chamonix, France
1936 – the Chairlift was invented in the US
1960’s – the plastic boot comes around. I bet you skier’s curse that day! I do remember how uncomfortable ski boots were! Let me tell you, the boots are a HUGE benefit to switching to snowboarding!
Obviously there’s a lot more in between especially with the development of all the accessories and how the ski itself, the boots and bindings evolved. My boyfriend just finished reading a really interesting book on the WWII 10th Mountain Division’s ski troops. He read me the first few chapters on the way to, ironically, go boarding. I was really intrigued. The book goes into further detail, not only about the Ski Troops but also the development of the Ski Patrol and talks about the development of America’s popular ski resorts. The people who fought on the ski troops in WWII were the ones that went on to start some of our main resorts, even here in CO. If you’re curious it’s called “Climb to Conquer” by Peter Shelton (link at the bottom).
BUT, Enough about skiing, I want to get into the start of snowboarding!
It was back in the 1910’s when snowboarding was first seen, but there was no name for it, nor was it very popular at the time. People would tie plywood or wooden planks to their feet with string to steer down hills for transportation.
But in 1965, snowboarding was invented by a guy named Sherman Poppen. Being an engineer, he made a toy for a daughters by putting two skis together and attached a string to steer downhill. This contraption was known as the Snurfer. It was so popular by his daughters and their friends that Brusnwick Corporation bought, manufactured and sold millions of snurfers. In the early 70’s there was even Snurfing competitions in Michigan!
Another innovator of the snowboard was a kid, yes kid, named Tom Sims, a skateboarder, who was in the eighth grade when he crafted a snowboard in shop class with carpet on top and medal sheets underneath. He went on to produce commercial snowboards in the 70’s.
It sounds like great minds think alike, because also around the same time, a man name Dimitrije Milovich, a surfer, took cafeteria trays to slide down snowy hills at his college campus. He crafted a snowboard type object called the Winterstick that was inspired by a surfboard.
Then finally, in 1977, a familiar sounding name pops up: Jake Burton Carpenter, a Vermont native and avid surfer, added bindings to the Snurfer to mount his feet to the board. And ta-da! Burton Snowboards was founded!
Although snowboards themselves had a ways to go from where they started in 1965. In 1979, at the annual Snurfing competition, Mr. Burton brought a new board of his own. It wasn’t like the snurfer, and he had to plead his case to compete, but that marks the FIRST snowboard competition! Jake Burton won. Although he was the sole participant.
Snowboarding grew in popularity through the 70’s and 80’s as Burton and other leading founders teamed up to create boards close to what we see today. There was a lot of innovations with the bindings and how you attach yourself to the board. Now there’s even a split board that can come apart and with a quick switch of the bindings, you get skis. Crazy, huh!?
1982 was the first snowboard race and 1983 was the first half-pipe competition! Between 1985 and 1990, snowboarding became recognized as an official sport and started events all of the US!
When snowboarding first became popular, there was a feud, an animosity of sorts, between boarders and skiers. Ski resorts banned snowboarders altogether. Now, 97% of resorts allow which ever mode of snow transport your prefer. Snowboarders and skiers can share the slopes in harmony. Just kidding! There will always be competition between us (friendly, of course)! Although, there are definitely resorts that are heavily weighted with skiers. I ran into this last week as I took a trip up to Loveland.
Besides the board itself, there are many different TYPES or STYLES of snowboarding:
1. Free Riding – this is what I do. Just your everyday riding, wherever, whatever you want. Add some trees? Sure. Catch some air? Go for it. Mogul it up? Why not!?
2. Free style – Tricks and jumps. I have yet to try any of this, although this season, I have been trying to catch a little air off of bumps in the natural terrain of groomed slopes. A lot of the features include pipes, boxes, jumps, rails..basically anything.
3. Slopestyle – This is a competition in which a course is set up and you get points by doing tricks off the jumps and rails that are in place.
4. Big Air – A competition where you launch yourself off a big jump and score points by having the best trick
5. Half-pipe/Super-Pipe – It’s that big, semi circular thing you see dug out of your ski resort. And boy is this competition fun to watch! The boarder drops in and goes side to side (while going down hill) and does tricks as you come to the top of each side.
6. Boarder cross– Now this is a sport I have been really enjoying watching. I haven’t seen it live, like I have with the slope style and super pipe competitions, but it’s super intriguing to watch. Several athletes begin a run at the same time. Usually the course includes park features and jumps.
7. Snowboard racing – exactly as it sounds, racing down the slope as fast as you can!
And there you have your history lesson for the day!
History of Skiing – Timeline – A very interesting website that breaks down each year and the history of skiing.
History of Snowboarding – yes I still use wikipedia..don’t you??
*If you only click one link out of these, click THIS ONE!! This was my favorite article in all my research of the History of Snowboarding including very old pictures of the first Snurfer and has a pretty detailed outline of the evolution of the snowboard including how boots and bindings became what they are today.*
Just a little tidbit to leave you off with – Last weekend, I joined a friend and his daughter for the New Belgium Ski/Ride Scavenger Hunt at Loveland resort! It was a ton of fun! They had about 20 clues that included finding things and people on the mountains, solving riddles and looking up information. It was sponsored by New Belgium and The Sustainability Association. We didn’t win (we actually didn’t even hear that we were supposed to turn our stuff in by a certain time) but we had a blast and got free beer at the end! This was the last one of the season, but now that I know they exist, I plan on trying to do more next season!