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Snowboarding is a sport that involves descending a snow-covered slope on a snowboard attached to a participant's feet using a special boot set into a mounted binding. It is similar to skiing, but inspired by surfing and skateboarding. The sport was developed in the United States in the 1960s and the 1970s and became a Winter Olympic Sport in 1998.
The first modern snowboard was arguably the Snurfer (a portmanteau of snow and surfer), originally designed by Sherman Poppen for his children in 1965 in Muskegon, Michigan. Poppen’s Snurfer started to be manufactured as a toy the following year. It was essentially a skateboard without wheels, steered by a hand-held rope, and lacked bindings, but had provisions to cause footwear to adhere.
During the 1970s and 1980s as snowboarding became more popular, true pioneers such as Dimitrije Milovich, Jake Burton (founder of Burton Snowboards from Londonderry, Vermont), Tom Sims (founder of Sims Snowboards) and Mike Olson (GNU Snowboards) came up with new designs for boards and machineries that had slowly developed into the snowboards and other related equipment that we know today.
Dimitrije Milovich, an east coast surfer, had the idea of sliding on cafeteria trays. From this he started developing his snowboard designs. In 1972, he started a company called the Winterstick; by 1975, The Winterstick was mentioned in Newsweek magazine. The Winterstick was based on the design and feel of a surfboard, but worked the same way as skis.
In 1979 the first ever "World Snurfing Championship" was held at Pando Ski Lodge near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jake Burton Carpenter, came from Vermont to compete with a snowboard of his own manufacture. There were many protests from the competitors about Jake entering with a non-snurfer board. Paul Graves, the top snurfer at the time, and others, advocated that Jake be allowed to race. A modified division was created and won by Jake as the sole entrant. That race was considered the first competition for snowboards and is the birth of what has now become competitive snowboarding.
In 1982 the first National Snowboard race was held near Woodstock, Vermont at Suicide Six.
Snowboarding's growing popularity is reflected in its recognition as an official sport: in 1985, the first World Cup was held in Zürs, Austria. The ISA (International Snowboard Association) was founded in 1994 to provide universal contest regulations. Today, high-profile snowboarding events like the Olympic Games, Winter X-Games, US Open, and other events are broadcast to a worldwide audience. Many alpine resorts are now setting up terrain parks. The sport has also had an impact in countries that are largely without snow, such as Australia.
Initially, ski areas adopted the sport at a much slower pace than the winter sports public. Many early snowboards were difficult to control and were banned from the slopes by park officials. In 1985, only 7% of U. S. ski areas allowed snowboarding, with a similar proportion in Europe. As equipment and skills improved, gradually snowboarding became more accepted. In 1990, most major ski areas had separate slopes for snowboarders. Now, approximately 97% of all ski areas in North America and Europe allow snowboarding, and more than half have jumps, rails and half pipes.
On January 14, 2008 Taos Ski area officially welcomed the first snowboarders to their resort, after years of exclusion. Founder of Bonfire Snowboarding, Brad Steward, joined Transworld Snowboarding Editor in Chief Kurt Hoy, Java Fernandez, Ryan Thompson, Josh Sherman and a local advocate for the first legal turns.
20% of all visitors to US ski resorts are snowboarders, and more than 3.5 million people have taken up snowboarding worldwide.
Since snowboarding's inception as an established winter sport, it has developed various styles, each with its own specialized equipment and technique. The most common styles today are: freeride, freestyle, and freecarve/race. It is important to note that while each style is unique, there is overlap between each style, and often no discernible difference.
The freeride style is the most common and easily accessible style of snowboarding. It involves, in the most simple terms, riding down any terrain available. This could include the beginner's first time down the bunny slope, or riding down a 60° slope in the backcountry. All the while freeriders may include aerial tricks and jib tricks borrowed from freestyle, utilizing whatever natural terrain they may encounter.
The freeride equipment usually used is a soft boot with a directional twin snowboard. Since the freeride style may encounter many different types of snow conditions, from ice to deep powder, the freeride snowboard is usually longer and has stiffer overall flex. The most common binding stance used is the forward stance with both leading and trailing feet in positive degree of arc ranges i.e. +9°/+15°.
The competition most associated with the technique of this style is Boardercross (Boarder X), even though it is comprised of manmade terrain.
This style incorporates the rider with man-made terrain features such as rails, boxes, jumps, half pipes, quarter pipes and a myriad of other features. The intent of freestyle is to use these terrain features to perform a number of aerial or jib tricks.
The equipment used in freestyle is usually a soft boot with a twin tipped board, though freeride equipment is often used successfully. The most common binding stance used in freestyle is called "duck foot" which the trailing foot has a negative degree of arc setup while the leading foot is in the positive range i.e. -9°/+12°. Freestyle riders who specialize in jibbing often use boards that are shorter than usual, ones that have additional flex and ones that have filed down edges between both feet.
The majority of snowboard competitions concern this style of snowboarding.
Freecarve / Race
This often overlooked style of snowboarding focuses on carving and racing. Sometimes called alpine snowboarding, freecarving takes place on hard-pack or groomed runs and focuses on the ultimate carving turn. Little or no jumping takes place in this discipline. Freecarve equipment is a hard boot and plate binding system with a true directional snowboard that is usually very stiff and narrow to facilitate fast and responsive turns.
Safety and precautions
Protective gear is increasing in popularity. This is a natural progression in any high-velocity sport which has the possibility for injury. The progression of protective gear is also attributed to pro riders adopting wearing protective gear, with Shaun White being a premier competitor advertising the use of helmets. Wearing protective gear is highly recommended to all participants, beginner or advanced, due to the dangerous nature of alpine sports. The body parts most often injured in snowboarding are the wrist, tailbone, head, ankles, and knee ligaments. Recommended protective safety gear includes wrist guards (as snowboarders often land on their hands and knees, resulting in wrist breakage), padded/protected snowboard pants, and a helmet. Snowboarding boots should be well-fitted, with toes snug in the end of the boot to minimize movement. Goggles are crucial on bright days to prevent snow blindness and protect riders from temporary vision loss to eye damage from snow from impacts into terrain or obstacles. Padding or "armor" is recommended on other body parts such as hips, knees, spine, and shoulders. Also, when snowboarding alone, precaution should be taken to avoid tree wells, a particularly dangerous area of loose snow that may form at the base of trees.
Snowboarding films have become a main part of progression in the sport. Each season, many films are released, usually in Autumn. These are made by many snowboard specific video production companies as well as manufacturing companies that use these films as a form of advertisement. Snowboarding videos usually contain video footage of professional riders sponsored by companies. An example of commercial use of snowboarding films would be The White Album, a film by snowboarding legend and filmmaker Dave Seoane about Shaun White, that includes cameos by Tony Hawk and was sponsored by PlayStation, Mountain Dew and Burton Snowboards. Snowboarding films are also used as documentation of snowboarding and showcasing of current trends and styles of the sport.
Snowboarding films also offer professional snowboarders an opportunity to focus on a creative project as an alternative to traveling exclusively for competitions. An example of this is professional snowboarder David Benedek. His film company, Blank Paper Studios, produced the documentary 91 Words For Snow (2006)as well as a collection of short films, In Short (2007).
Snowboarding has also been the focus of numerous Hollywood feature films. An early Hollywood nod to snowboarding was in James Bond film A View to a Kill — the opening sequence features Roger Moore as Bond eluding attackers with an improvised snowboard.
Snowboarding has also been featured in the more recent film, First Descent (2005). This movie features snowboarders Shaun White, Hannah Teter, Shawn Farmer, Nick Peralta and Terje Haakonsen. First Descent documents these snowboarders heliboarding into remote locations and doing big mountain riding. This film is also a documentary on the history of snowboarding, giving the history on the first snowboarders up to those of the present day.
Snowboard magazines are integral in promoting the sport, although less so with the advent of the internet age. Photo incentives are written into many professional riders' sponsorship contracts giving professionals not only a publicity but a financial incentive to have a photo published in a magazine. Snowboard magazine staff travel with professional riders throughout the winter season and cover travel, contests, lifestyle, rider and company profiles, and product reviews. Snowboard magazines have recently made a push to expand their brands to the online market. See also Transworld Snowboarding Magazine
Competitors perform tricks while descending a course, moving around, over, across, or down terrain features. The course is full of obstacles include boxes, rails, jumps, jibs (includes anything the board or rider can slide across), and quarter pipes (a half side of a half pipe, although usually not as long or high).
The half-pipe is a semi-circular ditch or purpose built ramp (that is usually on a downward slope), between 12 and 21 feet (6.4 m) deep. Competitors perform tricks while going from one side to the other and while in the air above the sides of the pipe.
In Boardercross (also known as "Boarder X"), several riders (usually 4, but sometimes 6) race down a course similar to a motorcycle motocross track (with jumps, berms and other obstacles constructed out of snow on a downhill course). Competitions involve a series of heats, traditionally with the first 2 riders in each heat advancing to the next round. The overall winner is the rider that finishes first in the final round.
The racing events are slalom, giant slalom, and super G. In slalom, boarders race downhill through sets of gates that force extremely tight turns, requiring plenty of technical skill as well as speed.
Giant slalom uses a much longer course with gates set further apart, resulting in even higher speeds. Super G is the fastest of all, with speeds of up to 45 mph (72 km/h).
Well Known Events
Some of the biggest snowboarding contests include: the U.S. Open, Shakedown, the West Coast Invitational, Vans Cup, X Games, and the Chevrolet U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, Chevrolet Revolution Tour and Race to the Cup series. There are also many other smaller division competitions; some are listed in the USASA.
The Ticket to Ride (World Snowboard Tour) is the largest culmination of independent freestyle events acting under one common Tour Flag. Officially recognized as the TTR World Snowboard Tour or simply ‘The TTR’, this culmination of Independent Freestyle Snowboard events has grown substantially over the last four years. Now in its sixth year, the TTR has a 10-month competition season including snowboarding events over four geographical zones. The Tour includes events like the TTR SIX(6)STAR Air & Style (Munich), The Arctic Challenge and the US Open of Snowboarding.