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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4) The First National Snow Surfing Championships (1982)
It wasn’t snowboarding’s first competition and it definitely wasn’t elaborate – the starting gate was an inverted kitchen table and hay bales served as crash pads –but the National Snow Surfing Championships helped put snowboarding on the map. Organized by champion Snurfer Paul Graves, the contest drew 125 contestants to Vermont’s Suicide Six resort and riders were seen sailing down the hill at speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour on both The Today Show and Good Morning America.

The next year, Jake Burton took over the event and in 1985 moved it to Vermont’s Stratton Mountain, where it was renamed the U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship. Today, crowds of more than 30,000 converge on Stratton Mountain every year to watch one of snowboarding’s most prestigious events.

5) International Snowboard Magazine Debuts (1985)
After witnessing a squabble at the 1985 World Championships in Soda Springs, California, Tom Hsieh had an idea: someone should put these stories in a magazine. Thus Absolutely Radical, the first regularly published snowboarding magazine, was born. Debuting in March 1985, and renamed International Snowboard Magazine after its first issue, Hsieh’s publication wasn’t glossy or fancy, but it reported industry gossip, conducted the first snowboard tests and provided the sport with a sense of legitimacy.

“It told real stories from the early days without embellishment,” says photographer Bud Fawcett, whose pictures have graced the pages of dozens of winter sports magazines including ISM. “It was the original source of information from the contest scene which was driving the sport for so long in the 1980s.”

The industry’s undercapitalized publication of record folded in 1991, unable to compete with slicker and better distributed magazines like Transworld Snowboarding. Its impact on the nascent sport, however, is hard to overstate.

6) Ski Resorts Open Their Doors to Snowboarders (1984-1990)
Snowboarding faced a major obstacle in the 1980s: Most ski resorts didn’t allow snowboarders on their hills. Some claimed insurance liability issues, while others didn’t want the young rebel snowboarders irritating their well-heeled skiing clientele. Indeed, from cutting lift lines to cursing to dressing in crazy outfits, teenage snowboarders acted like, well, teenagers. That didn’t sit well with most skiers.

A diplomacy campaign was set in motion in an attempt to persuade resorts to accept snowboards and the teenagers who rode them. Though there was some resistance – some hills even required snowboarders to pass a certification test in order to ride – the campaign was successful. Approximately 40 U.S. resorts allowed snowboarding during the 1984-1985 season. By 1990, the number had grown to 476. Today, only three North American resorts continue to ban snowboarders.

7) Doug Waugh Invents the Pipe Dragon (1990-1992)
Man-made halfpipes started to appear at a few select ski resorts in the mid-80s, but they were small and poorly groomed. Making and maintaining them was also incredibly labor intensive. So, most resorts just didn’t bother.

In 1990, a farmer named Doug Waugh was commissioned to design a machine that would make building halfpipes easier. The result: the Pipe Dragon, a giant piece of farm machinery that cuts big pipes out of large piles of snow and can also be used to keep pipes smooth. The first Pipe Dragon was built in 1992 and the device became a necessity for resorts that wanted quality halfpipes in their terrain parks. With halfpipes easier to build and maintain, more pipes and terrain parks started popping up across the country, giving snowboarding’s freestyle revolution even more momentum.

8) Johan Olofsson Rips Through Alaska in TB5 (1996)
Snowboard films, a niche market if there ever was one, started to play a major role in the sport during the 1990s. The films made snowboarders into bigger stars and documented the sport's evolution as professional riders sought to raise the bar by doing more sophisticated tricks, getting bigger air and tackling increasingly dangerous terrain.


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