The curious history of the snowboard would seem to make it an obvious invention but the winter board didn’t really reach fruition until about 35 years ago. Since then that invention has exploded from continent to continent. It captures elements of skiing and sledding, of surfing and skateboarding. The experience is said to be incredibly liberating and challenging, sending sprays of powdery snow up into the faces of experts bound to the board with their knees bent ready for their next stunt.
Sherman Poppen was responsible for the invention and the name. A resident of snowy Michigan, he had the sudden vision of locking two skis together in the form of a board, emulating a surf board. This raw version of the snowboard went through several design changes before arriving at the shape we’re all familiar with today, but we have to give credit to Mr. Poppen for his innovative idea. Jake Burton Carpenter and Tom Sims are the generally accepted fathers of snowboarding as it was their concept of shape, combined with binding feet to the board, that began to propel the sport from a minority activity to a true sport, one that would have serious investment.
Beginning in its infancy on the slopes of Europe, snowboarding began to garner support and recognition from major winter sports companies in the USA and Canada. Here was a sport that could explode beyond the traditional boundaries of downhill skiing, becoming known as a winter fusion of the best elements of skateboarding, surfing and skiing. Masters of the board could match skiers in downhill slopes with the same level of speed and accuracy, but now there was the chance to drop the hand held ski sticks in favor of pure adrenaline generating balance that inspired new ways of moving. Ramps and edges of structures could be used to accomplish mind-numbing tricks. The snowboard could take to the air and carve out curves and arcs while in mid-air. Freestyle tricks and stunts were practiced and recognized by sporting organizations. The entire sport began to take on a very Californian, laid back vitality, and today’s ruling snowboarders still tend to be individuals who’ve gravitated from street sports, such as skateboarding, to the icy landscape of snowboarding.
This is a sport that has had to fight to establish its identity, an activity once overshadowed by traditional skiing and thought of as a novelty. In the mid to late 90’s snowboarding came out of that shadow, demonstrating an unlimited variety of styles that include standard downhill boarding and the more street-related snowboarding dedicated to freestyle stunts and tricks. The sport is now a hook for millions of teens and young adults looking to learn how to grab some air and emulate their professional heroes. It’s an all-encompassing sport as popular in the Alpine mountains of Austria as it is in the mountainous terrain of California.