Burton Brought Snowboarding To Life

December 7, 2019
Vintage Burton Snowboard
Image Credit: VintageWinter [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
If you’ve ever been to a ski resort, you’ve probably seen the word “Burton” written on a snowboard, clothing, or some other snow gear. That’s because Burton is a popular brand when it comes to the snowboarding world. While there are many companies making snowboarding equipment now, it wasn’t the case back in the late 1970s. In fact, modern snowboarding wasn’t even invented until the mid 1960s, and even then, it didn’t gain global popularity until the 1980s.

Some of the growing popularity of this young sport can be attributed to Jake Burton Carpenter, the founder of the Burton Snowboard company. In 1977, Carpenter founded his company and sold his first 300 snowboards. His boards were different. He made small adjustments to existing boards that made a huge difference. One small adjustment? He attached bindings to the board so snowboarders could actually carve and control the board better in the snow. (Could you imagine snowboarding and not being able to carve? We couldn’t!) Needless to say, his snowboards gained quite a following, and his company grew from a small shop out of a barn in Vermont to the multimillion dollar company it is today. But Carpenter wasn’t just satisfied with making functional snowboards; he wanted snowboarding to be a “real” sport. He put effort into sponsoring events, advocating ski resorts to allow snowboarders to access their ski lifts, and continued to push for national and international recognition of the sport.

On November 20th, Carpenter passed away due to complications from cancer. His wife, Donna Carpenter, who took over as CEO of Burton Snowboards in 2015, encouraged her employees to take the day and do what Carpenter would have done and enjoy the snow. To celebrate Carpenter’s life, we’re sharing a few interesting facts about snowboarding.

Patent drawing of the Snurfer

1. Many may claim that they invented the modern snowboard, but engineer Sherman Poppen is widely known as the “father of the snowboard.” He invented the contraption for his daughters by attaching two skis together. His wife named it the “snurfer.” Why snurfer? It combined the words “surf” and “snow,” two words that described what the contraption was made to for.

2. Dimitrije Milovich founded the first modern snowboard company called Winterstick.

3. While skiers and snowboarders may be on friendlier terms now, it wasn’t the case in the 1970s. Skiers were frustrated that boarders were taking over “their” mountains. Resorts wouldn’t allow snowboarders onto their mountains because there were claims that snowboarders didn’t follow ski etiquette, cut lines, and posed as a danger for skiers. During the 1984-1985 ski season, only forty US resorts allowed boarders onto their mountains. By 1990, nearly all US resorts opened up their mountains to snowboarders.

4. The United States held its first national snowboarding competition in 1982 in Vermont. It was called the “National Snow Surfing Competition.” Who won this first competition? Burton’s first team rider, Doug Bouton (not Burton), of course!

5. It wasn’t until 1998 that snowboarding was included as a sport in the Olympics.

Are you snowboarding or skiing this season?