Competitive Snowboarding Has Vermont Roots

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(Host) Two Vermonters have won Olympic gold medals for snowboarding. It’s a sport that has local roots.

VPR’s Neal Charnoff reports on the early days of snowboarding.

(Charnoff) The first International Snowboarding Championship was held in 1982 at the Suicide Six ski area in Woodstock. It’s a region also known for helping give birth to the ski industry.

Paul Graves of Reading was the organizer of the event. He says that the ski industry initially had reservations about snowboarding. Graves regards the first competition as a pivotal day in the history of the sport:

(Graves) “Both sides learned something. The ski area learned that here’s another source of revenue, and the riders that showed up that day, it just never occurred to anybody to go to a ski area. ¿ And shortly after the ’82 event was when p-tex bottoms, metal edges, much more sophisticated binding systems all started to hit the market, because we now had ski areas to ride instead of just back woods.”

(Charnoff) Despite heavy media coverage at the championship, Graves says it took several years for snowboarding to be taken seriously:

(Graves) “We predicted back in 1982 that the Olympics was a goal, and people laughed very hard back then at such a foolish thought.”

(Charnoff) Graves points out that the very first events to sell out at the 2002 Olympics were the snowboarding events. But he feels snowboarding still has obstacles to overcome as an Olympic sport:

(Graves) “As we got closer to the goal of participating in the Olympics certain things had to be given up, one of which was that it is still controlled by the International Ski Federation. ¿ I know every snowboarder that’s on the U.S. Team couldn’t be more proud to represent their country, but by the same token ¿ I’m hoping that at the next Olympics that the International Snowboarding Federation will have more say in how we run the snowboarding events.”

(Charnoff) The International Snowboarding Championships are still held every year at Stratton Mountain.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Neal Charnoff.

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