The legend of snowboarding


Photo courtesy of Sherman Poppen

Snowboarder testing the new “snurfer” in Michigan 1965, invented by Sherman Poppen.

Snowboarders undoubtedly share a passion to “shred the pow.” From that passion, a deeper connection is built within the snowboard community. The rooted connection could be attributed to the idea that snowboarders have persevered throughout history, especially in this very town, Aspen.

It is impossible to understand snowboarding today without looking back to its roots. The very first snowboard was a prototyped called the “snurfer,” a name derived from “snow-surfing.” This prototype, created by Sherman Poppen in 1965, was created by bolting two skis together and attaching a rope in the front for steering. Today, the model of the snowboard has evolved immensely from the original “snurfer” due to the efforts of many passionate creators. Jake Burton is credited to being one of the major innovators of today’s modern snowboard, and he sadly passed this November.

Jordi Karlinski is a real estate agent for Compass, and is a retired professional snowboarder who shared that fervor for the sport. She used to compete in slopestyle and was even on the US team for a number of years. Karlinski witnessed the evolution of the snowboard.

“I think the evolution of snowboarding is pretty incredible, especially since it has only been around since the mid 1960’s- starting with a Snurfer and evolving to twin tip & asymmetrical snowboards, to different base structures, and to split boards,” Karlinski said.

After the modifications of the board slowed, the final model of the snowboard was pieced together and the sport truly began. Momentum built in the 80s and 90s for an actual, competitive sport. Snowboarding started to be featured as a regular sport in the Olympics and the X-Games. The excitement for the sport was carried into the 2000s, and this profound innovation altered into a passion that was taken to the slopes.

The enthusiasm of snowboarding drove the sport to spread rapidly to ski towns, where snowboarders brought the new craze to the mountain tops. The arrival of the sport to ski towns is where major conflicts initiated. Alex Smith was one of the first snowboard instructors at Snowmass mountain in 1990 and observed disputes circulating on the mountains where snowboarders were antagonized.

“People thought snowboarders ruined the snow for the skiers, and snowboarders were shamed from ski lifts even. People didn’t like snowboarders at all. Being one of the first instructors was cool but very hard because the public felt like snowboarders would ruin the snow,” Smith said.

The friction from snowboarders joining in on the slopes became so prevalent that snowboarding was completely banned on certain mountains after the launch of the sport in the 80s. Snowboarders were not permitted on Aspen Mountain and had a long-time ban from the slopes. Snowboarders would put “Free Ajax” stickers on their boards, and petition to end the mountain segregation between skiers and snowboarders. The ban on snowboarding lasted around 20 years, and some snowboarders hiked up the mountain just to get the chance to ride down.

In 2001 the ban on snowboarding on Aspen mountain was finally lifted. Snowboarders could now enjoy the sport that took almost 4 decades to develop and finalize within the avid snowboard community. Today, discrimination is still faced with snowboarders being stereotyped with things such as “punks.” But, it can now be said that snowboarders have pursued their dreams of creating a board that can adequately “shred the pow.” Snowboarders can do just that now on mountains such as Aspen.

Jason Hartmann is a Snowmass Adult Alpine and Snowboard Programs Manager. Hartmann takes advantage of the open slopes for snowboarders and connects with the sport.

“When I snowboard, moving sideways through the world, it changes my perception,” Hartmann said.

The legend of the snowboard that formulated in many passionate creator’s minds now truly exists and the passion for it is profoundly shared. The avid members of snowboarding are all connected in one way or another, almost like entwining roots beneath a tree. Some may even go as far as to say that not only is their snowboard attached to their feet, but it is attached to their soul too.

“I live it, I love it. This sport is my life,” Jake Burton said.