Travis Rice at the 'Pillow Line' in the Kootenay Valley of British Colombia
© Tim Zimmerman / Red Bull Content Pool

History of snowboarding: Through the years

From simple initial snowboard prototypes to sleek designs and global recognition, the sport has grown incredibly.
By Ben Kissam
5 min readPublished on
“The [sports] that always stood out to me were the ones that weren't easily accessed,” said snowboarder Mark McMorris. “I had so much passion for snowboarding that it didn't matter that I was from the flattest place in Canada, I was going to do it for the rest of my life.”
Mark McMorris at the 2017 Red Bull Uncorked on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver

Mark McMorris at the 2017 Red Bull Uncorked on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver

© Scott Serfas / Red Bull Content Pool

That quote is in reference to the early 2000s when Mark was just a kid. While snowboarding was getting pretty big then, it’s nowhere near as popular as it’s become!
What might surprise you is that the history of snowboarding goes back all the way to the 1960s. From simple initial snowboard prototypes to sleek designs and global recognition, the sport has grown incredibly. In 1992, it even evolved to include slopestyle, or competitive park riding.
Check out this timeline to see the history of snowboarding through the years.
Mark McMorris snowboarding at the RedBull Performance Camp at Prime Park

Mark McMorris snowboarding at the RedBull Performance Camp at Prime Park

© Syo van Vliet / Red Bull Content Pool


The Roots of Snowboarding

Snowboarding was created in 1965 when an engineer from Michigan named Sherman Poppen invented the prototype of a snowboard. (Of course, like many inventions, others claim they invented the first snowboard—more on this later.) Poppen’s initial prototype was a simple design: two skis that were cross-braced together.
Rudimentary though it was, the original concept inspired others, like Dimitrije Milovich, to quickly evolve the initial snowboard’s design. In 1972, Milovich, who was a student at Cornell at the time and known for sliding down snowy hillsides on cafeteria trays, invented the winterstick. His original model, which was “a device made to surf the snow” looks very similar to the modern longboard.
Scotty James at the 2020 Burton US Open in Vail, Colorado

Scotty James at the 2020 Burton US Open in Vail, Colorado

© Daniel Milchev / Red Bull Content Pool

Milovich dropped out of college to move to Utah and spent many years refining his product and designing new ones. His company still exists today.

Snowboarding Throughout the '80s and '90s

The 1980s and 1990s are an important part of snowboarding history. Professional snowboarding events, which at the time consisted mostly of race and trick events, began in the early '80s leading to the formation of the International Snowboarding Federation (ISF) in 1985.
Snowboards also started appearing in movies. The snowboarding scene in the James Bond movie, "A View to Kill" released in 1995 is a good example.
In 1998, snowboarding made its debut at the Olympics with giant slalom and halfpipe events. The '90s were also when manufacturers began producing snowboards at a greater scale, which helped grow the sport immensely.
Three companies in particular were a big part of the early manufacturing revolution.


Originally from New York City, Jake Burton moved to Vermont and started his company, Burton Boards, at the end of the '70s. After he perfected his design and his boards gained popularity, he released a catalog to sell his product in the early 1990s. It was a novel idea at the time, at least for the snowboarding industry. This move made Burton Boards one of the biggest names in the sport.


SIMS snowboards were founded in 1976 by entrepreneur Tom Sims, who, like Burton, went on to mass produce his product. As a kid, Sims was an avid skateboarder and skier. One day in middle school woodshop class, he invented his prototype for the snowboard. (Unsurprisingly, he is one of the people who also claims to have invented the first snowboard.)
Sims was also a very talented athlete in his own right. He actually won the World Snowboarding Championships in 1983. Sadly, Sims died in 2012.


Mike Olson and Pete Saari founded GNU snowboards in 1977. In the 1980s, the company made history when it started making snowboards specifically designed for women, which was a huge success. The most decorated female snowboarder, Jamie Anderson, rode with a GNU board. Their designs received tons of notoriety, especially when women outperform men using GNU boards during competitions. They are all handbuilt in the USA.
Jamie Anderson rides at Red Bull Recharged 2021 at Mammoth Mountain, CA

Jamie Anderson rides at Red Bull Recharged 2021 at Mammoth Mountain, CA

© Peter Morning / Red Bull Content Pool


Early 2000's to Present

America was the host nation for the 2002 Winter Olympics, which took place in Park City, Utah, and had a massive U.S. audience. At 29 hours of viewership per U.S. household, Americans watched more of the Winter Olympics, including snowboarding events, than any other nation in 2022. One of the most popular events at the Games was the snowboarding halfpipe event, which debuted in 1998. Ross Powers, Danny Kass, and Jarret Thomas (all Americans) took home the three medals for the event.
Today, snowboarding is wildly popular. Every year, tens of millions of snowboarders and skiers hit the slopes—and that’s just in North America. The sport has even developed its own culture with defined ski and snowboarding terms, and more money than ever is being spent on snowboarding programs at the world stage level. That means athletes have more resources than ever before and are able to devote their full time to training for the sport.
Currently, the two biggest snowboarding events are The Winter X Games (held annually) and the Winter Olympics (held every four years). Other events, like the one-day street snowboarding event Red Bull Heavy Metal, show how the sport continues to expand.
Red Bull Heavy Metal 2023 in Detroit, Michigan

Red Bull Heavy Metal 2023 in Detroit, Michigan

© Joe Gall / Red Bull Content Pool


Snowboarding may have come from humble beginnings, where two skis were attached together, but the sport has evolved drastically, and the future looks bright. There are hundreds of resorts across America, and anyone can watch hundreds of hours of snowboarding videos online if they want.
No doubt, part of snowboarding's global appeal is its accessibility. Weekend snowboarders can hit the slopes a few times a year, while more serious athletes and adventure seekers can travel across the country looking for the best places to snowboard, like in the film "Fleeting Time."

Want more of this?