The Top Ten Important Moments in Snowboarding History

Since its mid-1960s inception, snowboarding has seen such a boom in popularity that it is now an event at the Winter Olympics

Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati won snowboarding's first gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics. (AP Photo / Robert F. Bukaty)

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Enter Johan Olofsson’s appearance in Standard Films TB5. During his four-minute segment, the young Swede threw down cool spins, and caught some major air, but the scene that set the snowboard world on its tail was a death-defying run on the Cauliflower Chutes in Valdez, Alaska. Oloffsson rocketed down a 50 degree, 3,000 vertical foot slope in just 35 seconds, earning himself legendary status and a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

“Never before [and arguably never since] had a video part captured the raw energy, aggression and sheer power of top-level snowboarding so perfectly,” says Colin Whyte, former editor of Future Snowboarding. “If snowboarding has a finest hour, those four minutes have my vote.”

9) Snowboarding Makes an Auspicious Debut at the Winter Olympics (1998)
While snowboarding is now one of the biggest draws at the Winter Games, its Olympic debut in Nagano, Japan was mired in controversy. Norway’s Terje Haakonsen, at the time the best snowboarder in the world, boycotted the Games. Snowboarding’s first gold medalist, Canada’s Ross Rebagliati, tested positive for trace amounts of marijuana and was stripped of his medal only to have it returned since the substance wasn’t technically banned. Meanwhile, two U.S. female snowboarders created a stir simply by refusing to wear their team outfits at breakfast in the Olympic village and it was later revealed that U.S. Olympic Snowboard coaches didn’t really ride. “Japan just did not go that well,” Jake Burton said euphemistically a few years later. “It was kind of a disaster.”

10) Shaun White Completes A Perfect Season (2005-2006)
Shaun White’s Gold Medal halfpipe performance at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games earned him mainstream recognition and the cover of Rolling Stone, but it was just one victory in a perfect season that made him a legend. 

Between December 2005 and March 2006, White entered 12 contests and knocked out 12 victories, among them all five Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers, two Winter X Games events, and, of course, the gold medal in Torino. Yet, White’s most satisfying triumph may have occurred in mid-March, when he overcame what had been his own form of Kryptonite: the U.S Open. Though he’d been a major force on the scene for years, White had never won at the Open before. With his perfect season on the line, he finally found success at Stratton, scoring victories in both the halfpipe and slopestyle events.

Snowboard legends Craig Kelly, Shaun Palmer and Terje Haakonsen all dominated the sport and pushed it to new levels, but none of them laid down a season of perfection. Much like the 1972 Miami Dolphins, White accomplished a tremendous feat that will grow in stature over time as more and more competitors try (and most likely fail) to duplicate it.


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