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history of alpine

Cindy Kleh

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We can help you but i guess you'll find lots of info on the net, and in past issues of the various mags.. alpine world began in 1986-1987 so issues of mags, especially from europe ( france, austria and germany mostly ) will show you lots of info, history.

hard to answer in a forum on such a wide question!!


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Where is PSR when you need him?

Truth be told, I believe that Burton is the father of alpine. I'm pretty sure he started the first snowboard races, or if he wasn't the first he did a lot to promote them. Sims was primarily concerned with freestyle and Winterstick was all about powder.

Sims did have a race board early on called the Blade, and they continued to make race boards right up until they discontinued the Burner just a few years ago. Before the Burner they had the MFR model designed by Mark Fawcett (<a href='http://bomberonline.com/articles/mark_fawcett_interview.cfm' target='top'>interview</a>), but I don't know what came between the Blade and the MFR.

Flite was there with Burton and Sims in the beginning, but they remained a garage brand while Burton and Sims took off. They had some interesting boards, like the Weapon - a race board with a published running length one centimeter shorter than the overall length (I'll bet Shred would have liked it).

Hooger Booger was an early race board maker in Europe, followed closely by Nidecker. HB made the first asymetrical raceboard, campaigned by Jose Fernandes. But the concept was premature and was not embraced for a few years. Hooger Booger was later purchased by Scott (like the ski poles and goggles and misc sporting goods) and the name was changed to Hooger. Eventually they called the boards Scott.

Other companies that made race boards relatively early in the game included Gnu, Lib-Tech, Kemper, Hot, F2, Funky, Nitro, Summit, Aggression, Crazy Banana, Mistral, Avalanche, Checker Pig, Look, Rossignol, K2, Dynastar, Elan, Lacroix, and probably some others I'm forgetting at the moment. Lib-Tech actually used cap construction a year before Salomon introduced it for skis.

Other ski companies who joined the alpine snowboard market later included Volkl, Volant, Atomic (Oxygen), maybe a few others. K2 got out of the alpine market early.

Since Burton did a lot to promote snowboard racing in the US, it is worth going into some of their detail. Burton's first dedicated race board was the Express 175 in I think 1985 or 86. It had a lot of taper, little sidecut and resembled a monoski. The Safari series followed, with very little if any taper and a carvable radial sidecut. That was replaced in 1990 by the M-series which only looked like a cosmetic face-lift, but they featured quadratic sidecuts. 1990 also saw Burton's first asym, the PJ, which was a 171.5cm slalom board, and was really only asym in the tail.

In 91, Burton went totally asym with its alpine boards, as did most of the industry around that time. A conspicuous and curious exception was Rossignol, who never made an asym, but made successful boards. In 91 the PJ was expanded to four boards and the "M" badge was relegated to two asym all-mountain carving boards. Alpine riding even influenced some of the freeride market as Burton and a few other companies also made asymetrical freeride boards which promised freestyle ability and improved carving. Burton's single 1992 "Asym-Air" became a two-board line called the X-series in 1993 which lived through I think 1996.

In 94 Burton offered two symetrical race boards called the Stat series, alongside the four PJs. The PJ was retired in 1995 when Burton embraced the rebirth of symetrical race boards and the new-school of carving technique. The new flagship race boards were the Factory Primes and they used radial sidecuts again. A single asym FP soldiered on until 1998 for slalom.

The FP's were offered as the no-holds-barred race boards and Burton offered other friendlier recreational alpine boards to round out the selection. This continued until 2002 when Burton's entire alpine side was boiled down to one model, the Speed. It wasn't clear whether these were race boards or freecarve boards, but it was clear that Burton was on the way out. The Speed was killed after the 2003 season.

1989 was an important year for Burton, because that was the year they abandoned the swallow-tail design of their recreational boards, and hopped on the round kicktail bandwagon pioneered by Sims. In 87 or 88, Burton had introduced the "Air" model which was a single freestyle board with a round kicktail. But until 89, Burton had been effectivly an alpine-only company, if you define alpine as riding mosly on the ground, in one direction, with the primary goal of making nice turns.

1990 saw the birth of Prior Snowboards (<a href='http://bomberonline.com/articles/chris_prior_interview.cfm' target='top'>interview</a>), which represented the start (or perhaps rebirth) of the "microbrew" boutique snowboard cottage industry which would later include Coiler, Donek, BS, and others. Prior offered full customs and race-room construction to anybody patient enough to wait in line. Many pro racers, notably Mark Fawcett, sought him out for custom race decks for use on the World Cup.

The early to mid 90's saw the birth of Bomber and Catek (then "CAT" - Caron Alpine Technologies) bindings and Madd Snowboards. Bombers and Cateks were expensive but effective alternatives to what was available, and have survived, obviously. They both addressed the fact that existing plate bindings had a not insignificant probability of catastrophic failure.

Madd were the first to pioneer the spare no expense manufacturing process and marketed ultra-premium boards for twice the price of an average board of the day. The snowboarding populace in general was not yet mature enough to see the need, appreciate the benefit, or even be able to afford such luxury. Madd developed a small devout following, but otherwise drifted into obscurity. They are now attempting a comeback, we'll see if the super-premium snowboards will float this time.

Snowboard racing became an Olympic sport in 1998 at Nagano, Japan, along with halfpipe. Veteran Canadian Ross Rebagliati took GS gold but had his parade quickly rained on by a marijuana scandal. It was rather embarrassing for Snowboarding's first Olympics. In 2002 the format was changed to parallel GS which was deemed more spectator friendly, and it was. 2002 Olympic Gold was won on a European boutique board, Kessler. Chris Klug became the first American racer to win Olympic hardware in 2002 by taking the bronze in front of a "home" crowd at Park City.

The only large-scale manufacturers that I know of that will be making alpine boards for the 2005 season are F2, Volkl, Nidecker, and Hot (not that Hot is that large, but they're old). The active North American boutique companies are Prior, Donek, Coiler, Madd, and BS is also making a comeback under the name Liberation. Mark Fawcett has a line of privately labeled boards of his design made by Prior, called Fozzboards.

And of course, no history of Alpine Snowboarding would be complete without mentioning BomberOnline! The internet is largely what allows alpine to continue to exist, and BomberOnline plays a key role there. I believe the inspiration for an online hardbooters community came from the usenet newsgroup rec.skiing.snowboard, which was started in the mid 90s by a guy named Crispin Cowan. BOL was founded in 1999.

Anyway, not sure if that's what you wanted, but I like talking about it.


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Guest Ghostrider
Originally posted by Jack Michaud

The only large-scale manufacturers that I know of that will be making alpine boards for the 2005 season are F2, Nidecker, and Hot (not that Hot is that large, but they're old).

Dont forget about Volkl...they have the RT GS and SL with a few new changes and a very nice looking textured topsheet coming up next season.

ot edit: Not to mention a VERY VERY VERY sexy ALL WOOD Swallowtail...I might have to get one just to hang on my wall. Its an amazingly beautiful board with all real wood...not a wood-like laminate.

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Wait a minute... I thought I saw Volkl mentioned in Jack's original post as one of the large manufacturers making alpine boards in 2005!

Incidentally, Nidecker has made some changes to their '05 line for the Custom GS/SL.

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You might want to contact Jeff Caron (aka, at least during his college years at UVM, as RHINO) at Catek.

Jeff was building plate binding systems at least as early as 1985 (and likely earlier). He had an amazing collection of early snowboards even then--called it the 'snowboard museum'.

Greg Hall, another UVM student and Burton rider/racer, used to test some of Jeff's early designs at Jay Peak (one of the few areas that allowed riding) as early as 1985.

Rumor has it that Rhino once mounted up a Dynastar monoski (dubbed the "RhinoStar") with a pair of his bindings and headed to Sugarbush, way before snowboarding was allowed on the slopes.

Apparently when he tried to board the lift he was stopped, and informed that snowboarding was not allowed. He promptly responded that he wasn't snowboarding, and pointed at the board's topsheet graphics, which clearly spelled out that it was, in fact, a monoski (not prohibited at the Bush).

Apparently he got at least one run on his board before the lift staff wised up.

We all respected that.

Anyway, Jeff should be able to provide you with some good info (and images?) on hard boot riding from the earliest years to the present. He is a veritable, though largely unsung, pioneer in the sport.


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I was inspired by Cindy's question and Jack's (always eloquent and succinct) comments to build a quickie gallery of some older alpine equipment. Enjoy! Should bring back some memories.

Please: Accept my appology in advance about not having a back button , and no, they are not all my snowboards.


I would add that Avalanche "Bet the farm" on the plate bindings. The "Uni-Plate" , similar to a crampon without the teeth.

Burton built the Express 175 and Safari I, II and III to answer the needs of the downhill racers , gs and salom courses.

Sims built a "2000" or 200cm snowboard that was rare , yet took Craig and a few others to the podium.

For sure, the early years of alpine where dominated by the Euros. We "Ruled" the pipe and bump contests while we often took 3rd to Peter B and John N..

Check out the links to the early CAT and Bomber bindings. Only seems fair to post the two companies from the US that took up the Alpine Torch. The need born out of too many broken bindings on the race course. Well done gentlemen!! I wish you both great success in the future. "You Carve, You Carve, You Carve".

Bryan of oldsnowboards.com

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This video is definitely worth watching...and owning if you are into the roots of the sport. Not much Quality carving, But of course that was hard in sorrels with bungee cord bindings...


Shot on location at Ski Cooper outside of Leadville, Colorado, this video chronicles the first-ever snowboarding competition, in April 1980. Features appearances by legendary pioneers including Tom Sims, Scott Jacobson, Jake Burton and others. Vintage shredding, dude!

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Bryan - awesome gallery! Thanks! I've added Mistral, Look, Avalanche, and Crazy Banana to my list, thanks to your pictures. How could I forget those guys? I knew two guys with Mistral Sonics (modern sym) who absolutely loved them.

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Thanks guys, my pleasure. If you are looking for your old ride or have an old board you would like to sell let me know. If you have interest in the history of snowboarding , you might check out this book from the library , or your local book store. Susanne Howe is the author and she does a great job of staying unbiased. Lot of great early photos. I think it lists for 21.95$ I offer it on Ebay for half that. If anyone from Bomber wants a brand new copy I will ship it to your door (USA only) for 10$ even. Great , easy read.

You can check out some photos here. Check out the one of Peter and Jean !! Very Euro. Freshies on the hard boots! Thanks, Bryan



bobdea "OLD", at 23yrs, Dude!! I have snowboards older than you!! At 47 , and 20 years of snowboarding, I didn't start snowboard until I was older than you are now!. Just a reference point when you wake up sore. Count your blessings my friend!

Some of your seniors here on BOL , ride hard 4-5 days a week in the winter, I have a feeling they had a chuckle at your "OLD" comment. Ride hard , ride smart , enjoy your youth!

:) :D Keep in mind, boards just 10 years old may be considered "Vintage" in such a young sport.

However, if you have had a chance to check out the first issue of "Snowboard Journal", you know about the snowboard from 1918 http://www.snowboardjournal.com/Issue001.html

NOW THAT IS OLD!! Could be your Great Grandpa's snowboard!!


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