Who Invented Snowboarding? [Settling A Vicious Debate]

by Tom
Updated:

First appearing in the winter Olympics in 1998, snowboarding is now very much accepted into the winter-sports community. But when it comes to how exactly it began, the details are a little hazy. Who invented snowboarding?

Sherman Poppen is widely credited as having invented snowboarding. In 1965, Poppen put two skis together to create a makeshift board for his daughters. This would later be acknowledged as the first snowboard.

But not everybody believes this series of events…

The rest of this article will discuss the inventor of snowboarding in greater detail. I think we need to hash out this debate once and for all… so keep reading!

who invented snowboarding

 

How Was Snowboarding Invented?

Snowboarding was invented in the mid-1960s when a father named Sherman Poppen made a toy out of two children’s skis. This toy is one of the earliest known prototypes of the modern snowboard. The rest is history. 

What was this magical new invention called?

Poppen’s wife came up with the name ‘snurfer’ – a combination of the words snow and surfer. After realizing the potential of the snurfer toy, Poppens trademarked it… and ended up selling thousands!

 

Did Tom Sims Invent Snowboarding?

Another individual, Tom Sims, is considered by many as the true inventor of snowboarding. As an avid skateboarder, Sims wished he could still skate in the colder months.
 
In the early 1960s, he therefore created a rudimentary snowboard in school using some wood and carpet. He called this invention the “ski-board”. This is another of the early snowboard prototypes.
 
Whether this counts as having invented the snowboard has been the source of many heated debates. 
 
So who actually invented snowboarding? 

 

Sherman Poppen vs Tom Sims – Who Invented Snowboarding?

If the dates are to be believed, it was actually Tom Sims!

Poppen invented his version several years later and became the first to commercialise it. He manufactured the first prototypes and brought them to the attention of the masses.

Poppen is therefore more widely accepted as the true inventor. A fact I’m sure would have annoyed Sims!

Regardless, Sims continued to develop his ideas and is credited with inventing many features of the modern snowboard. He went on to sell many boards throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Learn more about Sims in the official list of the “most famous snowboarders ever“.

 

Did Jake Burton Invent Snowboarding?

Burton is one of the most recognisable snowboard brands in the world. You’d therefore be forgiven for asking… did Jake Burton invent snowboarding?

Jake Burton didn’t invent snowboarding, but he was very influential in the evolution of the sport. Burton noted that the original snowboard, known as the snurfer, was too narrow and needed significant improvements. He founded his snowboard company in 1977 to address this.

Burton’s company, Burton Snowboards, is still around today and is one of the most popular snowboard manufacturers worldwide. Because of the significant impact he had on snowboarding, many people credit Burton as one of the inventors of snowboarding.

But it wasn’t an easy or quick process.

In the early days of his business, Burton struggled to sell his snowboards and had to take on part-time work to make money on the side. He found it difficult to find customers, and many shop-owners didn’t want to sell his product. This was probably mainly due to the selling price. 

At the time, snurfers were more affordable and compact, whereas his boards were bigger and much more expensive. Fortunately, his business took off in the end…

 

Where Was Snowboarding Invented?

We’ve debated who invented it, but where was snowboarding invented? 

Snowboarding was invented in Michigan, United States of America. In 1965, Michigan-based engineer Sherman Poppen made the first snowboard prototype. All subsequent snowboard developments took place in different parts of the country (USA). 

Interestingly, it sounds like multiple different people were inventing different snowboard concepts – in different parts of the country – all at the same time!

The United States is a vast country with different climates and weather conditions. As such, it’s no surprise that snowboarding was invented there.

Sherman Poppen invented his first snowboard in Michigan, and certain parts of Michigan can get up to 200 inches (508 cm) of snow per year! 

 

Who Invented Halfpipe Snowboarding?

Bob Klein and his friend Mark Anolik are the first known inventors of halfpipe snowboarding. In 1979, they discovered a natural half-pipe on land owned by a sanitation company in Lake Tahoe. They had been searching for somewhere to practice as few resorts allowed snowboarding at the time.

Word eventually got out and the pipe became a very popular place! As mentioned, major resorts still wouldn’t allow snowboarding. This encouraged people to find other ways to practice this new and exciting sport. 

This first halfpipe in Lake Tahoe became the inspiration for all halfpipes in the future of snowboarding.

 

Which Was the First Ski Resort To Allow Snowboarding?

Stratton, Vermont, was the first ski resort to allow snowboarding in 1983. This was followed by Breckenridge ski resort in Colorado in 1985. Once the first few significant resorts began to accept snowboarders, the other resorts eventually followed suit. 

Not only was Stratton the first ski resort to allow snowboarding, but it’s also where the first snowboarding school was born!

Although most resorts began permitting snowboarding in the 80s, currently, there are three ski resorts in North America that don’t allow snowboarding.

 

Why Wasn’t Snowboarding Accepted When It Was Invented?

In the beginning, few people saw snowboarding as a real sport.

When Poppens sold his first snowboards through a manufacturer, most people would buy them as kids’ toys. They wouldn’t ever consider buying them for adults!

Additionally, people would try to bring boards up the ski slopes, but they wouldn’t be allowed to use them. The resort owners didn’t see this as a genuine sport and were worried about injuries. This deterred a lot of people. 

However, things began to change in the 70’s when snowboarding started to take off. More and more people joined the new and exciting sport.

 

Summary

  • Although the original inventor of snowboarding is debatable, many people agree that it was Sherman Poppens, an engineer from Michigan.
  • Tom Sims was also one of the early pioneers and could be considered another key snowboarding inventor.
  • Jake Burton is yet another crucial figure in the history of snowboarding because he saw the weaknesses of the original snowboard (the snurfer) and improved the product.

We have all of these influential figures (and many more) to thank for the modern sport of snowboarding.

Without them, we’d still be riding hand-cut wooden boards. Or worse – skiing!!

If you found this article helpful, share the love and have a browse of the rest of the site. Happy riding!

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4 comments

Rich 23/06/2023 - 5:42 pm

Interesting read, thanks

Reply
Fraser 24/06/2023 - 9:17 am

no problem!

Reply
Cary 21/11/2023 - 10:35 am

Killer post my dudes. I’ll be back!

Reply
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