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Susquehanna Life

What else do you need to know about snowboarding?

Jul 17, 2014 04:56PM ● By Erica Shames

Then and now

Snowboarding today is an outgrowth of what began when a man named Sherm Poppin invented something called the Snurfer to entertain his kids around Christmas in 1967. In the early 1970s, Jake Burton Carpenter was one of thousands of kids to get hooked on the Snurfer. While it may have been little more than a department store toy, it was still surfing on snow.

Shocked that the original Snurfer still looked basically the same ten years later, Carpenter said goodbye to the business world in order to become a snowboard “shaper,” with a vision of creating the finest snowboarding equipment on the planet. He moved to Londonderry, Vermont, and started manufacturing the first custom-designed boards. In time, Carpenter founded the first snowboard factory, in Vermont, and soon became known as the ‘Pioneer of Snowboarding’.


Ski areas at first vehemently resisted the new sport of snowboarding, claiming its riders endangered skiers on the slopes. Snowboarders were left to find their own hillsides until 1982, when Suicide Six Resort in Pomfret, Vermont, began allowing snowboarding on its slopes. Soon thereafter, Jake Jake Burton Carpenter, the inventor of the first custom-designed snowboard, succeeded in convincing Stratton Mountain Resort, also in Vermont, to give it a shot, with the understanding that snowboarders would have to submit to qualifying tests to determine whether they could ride under control.

Snowboarders endured such humiliation in order to gain access to a major ski area and demonstrate that they were, in fact, probably safer on the slopes than many skiers. It wasn’t long before Stratton, claiming that snowboarding added up to one-fourth of its business, argued that many ski areas were ignoring a vital revenue source. Before long, other ski-designated areas, in New England and elsewhere, including Pennsylvania, began dropping their opposition; snowboarding soon became the fastest-growing snow-related sport in existence.

Equipment and disciplines

Snowboards are made from the same materials as are skis: namely, layers of wood, plastic and fiberglass with metal edges topped off with detailed, individualistic graphics. At last count, 62 different companies were manufacturing seemingly endless models of snowboards, different ones for the various snowboarding disciplines. Alpine is done primarily on snowboards specifically designed for quick, precise turning. The tip and tail of the ‘board have a ski-like design, although the tip is not as upturned.

Freestyle snowboards are designed for tricks and jumps on open terrain, and in snowboarding parks, which are specially designed areas where riders can jump over various manmade creations. Most snowboarders ride freestyle.

Free-riding is doing whatever one wants to on any kind of snowboard, under varied conditions. Anyone can “free-ride,” but there are boarders who stick to packed terrain and carved turns, as well as individuals who hang out primarily in snowboarding parks. If you’re looking for one all-purpose snowboard that will take you most anywhere, check out a free-riding board. Basically, the free-riding category is equivalent to all-terrain skis.

Well-constructed snowboards cost about the same as good skis, starting around $400 with bindings, and averaging $500-$600. Department-store versions are available for around $100, but most perform poorly.

Boots (either hard-shell plastic or soft-shell leather) should be supportive, warm and comfortable. High-end boots run about $200-$300. They’re helpful but not a necessity; many snowboarders get by with winter pac boots that cost around $70.

Bindings may be simple wide bands of rubber with adjustable straps, or more elaborate foam-padded plastic with ski boot-type buckles. Bindings aren’t as critical to safety as they are with skiing, since one’s ankles are not locked in rigidly. However, a secure binding will help a snowboarder turn more easily.

Beside waterproof clothes, it’s important to wear safety equipment, including wrist guards and padding. Many snowboarding-specific resort areas have rental shops, which feature high-tech equipment, and trained personnel to ensure that everything you purchase fits and is properly adjusted.

The best places to go?

For delightful snowboarding, head for SKI DENTON, 5661 US Rte. 6, Coudersport, tel. 814-435-2115; Ski Sawmill, 383 Oregon Hill Road, Morris, Pennsylvania; Tussey Mountain Ski Resort, 341 Bear Meadows Road, Boalsburg, tel. 800-733-2754; or Camelback Mountain Resort, One Camelback Road, Tannersville, Pennsylvania; tel. 570-629-1661.

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