History of Snowboarding
When Did Snowboarding Start?
Snowboarding, didn't really have the easiest beginnings. For a start, its father has never been surely identified: was it Jack Burchett, who in 1929 put together a crude snowboard using a plank of wood, some rope and horse reins for bindings? Or was it Sherman Poppen, whose prototype 'Snurfer' in 1965 was originally a gift for his daughter Wendy, but carried on to shift half a million units the year after?
Either way, snowboarding's early development was troublesome. In a world ruled by officiously minted skiers, snowboarding went down like a bad joke: early designs were modeled on surfboards down to the tail fins (quite useless in everything but deep powder), and snowboarders were laughed at on a daily basis as wannabe surf dudes way out of their depth. In most resorts they were banned straight-out, while those that permitted them disallowed use of the lifts, as their non-release bindings failed to comply with the industry standards for ski equipment safety.
So it was that snowboarding's anti-social inclinations were fostered from an early age; denied the pristine pistes of their wealthier Alpine cohabiters, snowboarders became pack animals having unofficial diplomas in backcountry DIY, huddled in groups, hiking the soft stuff and building terrain of their own. Snowboarding gathered an outlaw momentum rapidly picked up on by the youth media; punk rock and skater style gave their mountain migration a worldwide momentum. Combining attitude and altitude, an aggressive adolescent snowboarding started to break free from its patronizing stepfather (the Federation Internationale de Ski). Its catalog of ever more insane tricks and powder lines made most skiers feel understandably middle-aged.
But that day has passed, if anything, the image of freestyle skiing has made praiseworthy progress, looking and sounding exactly like snowboarding did more than ten years ago. Skiers have penetrated snowboard parks across the world (now known as 'terrain parks' so as not to upset anybody), and have even taken on many of snowboarding's signature moves, from rodeo flips to rail slides.
'Terrain' parks remain universally snowboard-oriented affairs, much enhanced by recently increased investment and a variety of specialist shaping equipment (the mighty Zaugg Pipe Monster, for instance). The prevailing 'no falls, no balls' attitude of yesteryear has evaporated, and most contain at least a smattering of entry-level kickers and rails, if not one totally separate beginners' area.
Europe is home to some world-class parks, many of them in France. Tignes has always been a popular option with beginners, home as it is to a downsized half-pipe (always best in the first few weeks of the season, as the sun rapidly takes the edge off it), a wide range of smaller ramps and rails and a magnificently relaxed atmosphere (the communal barbecue certainly helps). The Tignes park is situated on the Carline piste in Val Claret, though advanced riders are urged to head for the Bellevarde/La Daille region of neighboring Val d'lsere, where an unquestionably more trouser-filling selection of obstacles awaits, including a burly boardercross course, two opposing quarter-pipes and a rightfully intimidating 30m tabletop jump.