Snowboarding history: When did snowboarding become an Olympic sport?
A look back at the past Olympic competitions in snowboarding and the sport's origins.
The United States took home four Olympic snowboarding golds in men's and women's slopestyle and halfpipe, the first such occurrence by any one nation. In previous Games, the Americans had earned a maximum of three titles: in Sochi, missing Shaun White in men's halfpipe, and in Torino, losing out on a fourth after a highly criticized Lindsey Jacobellis boardercross fall. Switzerland matched the U.S. with three titles at those Olympics, the only other country to attain a snowboarding title trio.
White didn't disappoint in his return to Games competition. A double Olympic champion, the 31-year-old American halfpipe legend was the top qualifier into the final and opened up with a 94.25 first run after two-time reigning world champion Scotty James of Australia threw down a 92.00. Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, 19, who fell on his first run, followed up with back-to-back double cork 1440s for a 95.25 on his second to take the lead. With the last drop-in of the competition, White put on one of the best shows of his career, landing back-to-back combos of 1440s himself to score a men's Olympic halfpipe best of 97.75 and secure his third gold, coincidentally Team USA's 100th Olympic Winter Games title. Hirano won his second silver while James made his first podium.
Seventeen-year-old American Chloe Kim made history in South Korea as the youngest women's Olympic halfpipe gold medalist, outshining teammate Kelly Clark's title-winning performance from the 2002 Salt Lake Games at age 18. Kim topped qualifying and lost no time rising to the pressure in her first run of the final, landing back-to-back 1080s — her score, 93.75, ultimately would've won her the gold by itself, but she bettered it in her third run with a 98.25, clinching a dominating victory. Clark took fourth.
Big air – a freestyle event on both the World Cup circuit since 2001, discontinuously, and world-championship program since 2003 – finally made its Olympic debut at the PyeongChang Games. Reigning world champion Anna Gasser of Austria landed a cab double cork 1080 on her final run to secure a 185-point total and hold off USA's Jamie Anderson. On the men's side, Canada's Sebastien Toutant capped a back-injury comeback with 84.75- and 89.50-point first and second runs for gold.
Anderson and 17-year-old underdog Red Gerard won the other two U.S. golds in slopestyle. After poor weather cancelled women's qualifying, the entire field was advanced to and competed in an abnormal two-run final during which several athletes crashed. Anderson, the reigning Olympic champion, was one of just a few to persevere and came out on top. Meanwhile, Gerard hit a backside triple cork 1440 on his final jump to score a 87.16 and beat out Canadians Max Parrot and Mark McMorris for gold.
A week after winning super-G gold in Alpine skiing, reigning world parallel giant slalom snowboarding champion Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic captured that event's Olympic title, too, at the PyeongChang Games, becoming the first woman to win golds in different sports at the same Winter Games and only the third athlete to ever achieve the feat.
|Men's Slopestyle||🥇 Red Gerard, USA, 87.16 (43.33/46.40/87.16)
🥈 Max Parrot, CAN, 86.00 (45.13/49.48/86.00)
🥉 Mark McMorris, CAN, 85.20 (75.30/85.20/60.68)
|Women's Slopestyle||🥇 Jamie Anderson, USA, 83.00 (83.00/34.56)
🥈 Laurie Blouin, CAN, 76.33 (49.16/76.33)
🥉 Enni Rukajarvi, FIN, 75.38 (45.85/75.38)
|Women's Halfpipe||🥇 Chloe Kim, USA, 98.25 (93.75/41.50/98.25)
🥈 Liu Jiayu, CHN, 89.75 (85.50/89.75/49.00)
🥉 Arielle Gold, USA, 85.75 (10.50/74.75/85.75)
|Men's Halfpipe||🥇 Shaun White, USA, 97.75 (94.25/55.00/97.75)
🥈 Ayumu Hirano, JPN, 95.25 (35.25/95.25/43.25)
🥉 Scotty James, 92.00 (92.00/81.75/40.25)
|Men's Snowboard Cross||🥇 Pierre Vaultier, FRA
🥈 Jarryd Hughes, AUS
🥉 Regino Hernandez, ESP
|Women's Snowboard Cross||🥇 Michela Moioli, ITA
🥈 Julia Pereira de Sousa Mabileau, FRA
🥉 Eva Samkova, CZE
|Women's Big Air||🥇 Anna Gasser, AUT, 185.00 (JNS/89.00/96.00)
🥈 Jamie Anderson, USA, 177.25 (90.00/87.25/JNS)
🥉 Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, NZL, 157.50 (65.50/92.00/JNS)
|Men's Big Air||🥇 Sebastien Toutant, CAN, 174.25 (84.75/89.50/JNS)
🥈 Kyle Mack, USA, 168.75 (82.00/86.75/JNS)
🥉 Billy Morgan, GBR, 168.00 (JNS/82.50/85.50)
|Women's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Ester Ledecka, CZE, –
🥈 Selina Joerg, GER, +0.46
🥉 Ramona Theresia Hofmeister, GER, –
|Men's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Nevin Galmarini, SUI, –
🥈 Lee Sang-Ho, KOR, +0.43
🥉 Zan Kosir, SLO, –
Making its long-awaited Olympic debut, slopestyle did not disappoint. In the years right before the Sochi Games, trick progression had led up to the triple cork, and it was expected that a rider would need to have at least one — most likely two — triples in their run in order to win gold. For that reason, Canadian shredders Mark McMorris and Max Parrot were seen as favorites. But the judges were looking for something else that day, and they found it in Team USA's Sage Kotsenburg. The charismatic 20-year-old, generally overlooked as a medal contender, mixed up his grabs to produce one of the day's most stylish runs. On the final jump, he attempted a backside 1620 Japan grab — a trick he had never even tried before — and landed it. That helped earn him the United States' first gold medal of the Sochi Games and also put the term "spoice" into the American lexicon for at least a few weeks. Jamie Anderson won women's slopestyle the next day to give the U.S. a gold-medal sweep.
While Kotsenburg entered under the radar, Shaun White arrived in Sochi with high expectations for a three-peat in halfpipe. But competing in a pipe that was in a less-than-ideal condition, White was unable to put down the run he wanted. After crashing on his first attempt, White couldn't land his new trick – the cab double cork 1440 – cleanly on his second run and finished off the podium in fourth. Swiss rider Iouri Podladtchikov, a good friend of White's, was able to execute a clean version of that same trick during his run to help propel himself to a gold medal. In women's halfpipe, 24-year-old U.S. snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington upset a field that included the past three Olympic champions – Kelly Clark, Hannah Teter, Torah Bright – to win a gold medal. Unfortunately, that would go down as her first and only Olympics. A year later, Farrington was forced to retire after it was discovered that she had a degenerative spine condition.
Alpine snowboarding picked up a second event for the Sochi Games, with parallel slalom joining parallel giant slalom on the program. Although Vic Wild was born in the United States, he switched nationalities and began competing for Russia before the Olympics. Part of the rationale behind that decision was that he felt he would receive better opportunities with the Russian team. But there was another reason, too: he had begun dating, and eventually married, Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina. Both spouses managed to reach the medal rounds in parallel giant slalom on the same day in Sochi. First, Zavarzina won the women's small final to claim the bronze medal, followed by Swiss Patrizia Kummer's big-final win; then, minutes later, Wild took the men's gold-medal race. Three days after that, Wild won another gold medal, this time in parallel slalom. Austrian Julia Dujmovits won the women's title in that event.
|Men's Slopestyle||🥇 Sage Kotsenburg, USA, 93.50 (93.50/83.25)
🥈 Stale Sandbech, NOR, 91.75 (27.00/91.75)
🥉 Mark McMorris, CAN, 88.75 (33.75/88.75)
|Women's Slopestyle||🥇 Jamie Anderson, USA, 95.25 (80.75/95.25)
🥈 Enni Rukajarvi, FIN, 92.50 (73.75/92.50)
🥉 Jenny Jones, GBR, 87.25 (73.00/87.25)
|Men's Halfpipe||🥇 Iouri Podladtchikov, SUI, 94.75 (86.50/94.75)
🥈 Hirano Ayumu, JPN, 93.50 (90.75/93.50)
🥉 Hiraoka Taku, JPN, 92.25 (45.50/92.25)
|Women's Halfpipe||🥇 Kaitlyn Farrington, USA, 91.75 (85.75/91.75)
🥈 Torah Bright, AUS, 91.50 (58.25/91.50)
🥉 Kelly Clark, USA, 90.75 (48.25/90.75)
|Women's Snowboard Cross||🥇 Eva Samkova, CZE
🥈 Dominique Maltais, CAN
🥉 Chloe Trespeuch, FRA
|Men's Snowboard Cross||🥇 Pierre Vaultier, FRA
🥈 Nikolay Olyunin, RUS
🥉 Alex Deibold, USA
|Women's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Patrizia Kummer, SUI, – (+0.30/–)
🥈 Takeuchi Tomoka, JPN, +7.32 (–/+7.32)
🥉 Alena Zavarzina, RUS, – (+0.01/–)
|Men's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Vic Wild, RUS, – (+0.54/–)
🥈 Nevin Galmarini, SUI, +2.14 (–/+2.14)
🥉 Zan Kosir, SLO, – (–/–)
|Women's Parallel Slalom||🥇 Julia Dujmovits, AUT, – (+0.72/–)
🥈 Anke Karstens, GER, +0.12 (–/+0.12)
🥉 Amelie Kober, GER, – (–/–)
|Men's Parallel Slalom||🥇 Vic Wild, RUS, – (–/–)
🥈 Zan Kosir, SLO, +0.11 (+0.12/+0.11)
🥉 Benjamin Karl, AUT, – (–/–)
A warm winter had left Cypress Mountain devoid of snow, so in order to hold the snowboarding events, snow had to be trucked in from northern Canada. But that wasn't the only major operation that took place: in the leadup to the Olympics, rumors spread that a private halfpipe had been built in Colorado exclusively for Shaun White. It was there, in a place only accessible by helicopter, that White secretly dialed in his newest tricks, including the double McTwist 1260, or "Tomahawk." All that training paid off for White, who locked up victory in Vancouver on the strength of his first run in the men's halfpipe final. Able to take a victory lap on his final run, White decided to go for the double McTwist 1260 that was becoming his signature trick. He landed it, capping off his performance with an exclamation point and winning his second straight gold medal. Finland's Peetu Piiroinen and American Scotty Lago took silver and bronze, marking the second straight time Americans had won at least two medals in the event.
White was joined as a repeat champion by Seth Wescott, who won gold in men's snowboard cross for the second consecutive Olympics. The 33-year-old overtook home favorite Mike Robertson before the last turn. Wescott's gold was even more remarkable because he had sustained a painful injury just six weeks before the Olympics in which his femur jammed into his pelvis.
Meanwhile, in the women's race, Lindsey Jacobellis hoped to redeem herself after wiping out in Torino, but another crash — this time in a semifinal heat — resulted in a disqualification and no medal at all. Canada's Maelle Ricker won the gold Jacobellis coveted.
In the fourth and final Olympics of his storied career, Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson secured his first medal with a long-awaited victory in parallel giant slalom, overcoming a 0.76-second deficit at the start to win gold. At her third Olympics, Dutchwoman Nicolien Sauerbreij captured gold in the women's event to earn the Netherlands' its first Winter Games medal in a non-ice skating event.
Australia's Torah Bright went from worst to first to win the women's halfpipe gold medal. She fell in her first run of the final, leaving her last in the standings, but after finishing her second run she watched the rest of the field compete and no one could touch her leading score. Bright's parents had traveled from Australia to watch her compete without telling her, even hiding in a closet at Bright's Olympic house to keep the secret uncovered. Bright burst into tears as soon as she saw them in the stands after her victory. Americans Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark, both past champions, won silver and bronze.
|Men's Snowboard Cross||🥇 Seth Wescott, USA
🥈 Mike Robertson, CAN
🥉 Tony Ramoin, FRA
|Women's Snowboard Cross||🥇 Maelle Ricker, CAN
🥈 Deborah Anthonioz, FRA
🥉 Olivia Nobs, SUI
|Men's Halfpipe||🥇 Shaun White, USA, 48.4 (46.8/48.4)
🥈 Peetu Piiroinen, FIN, 45.0 (40.8/45.0)
🥉 Scotty Lago, USA, 42.8 (42.8/17.5)
|Women's Halfpipe||🥇 Torah Bright, AUS, 45.0 (5.9/45.0)
🥈 Hannah Teter, USA, 42.4 (42.4/39.2)
🥉 Kelly Clark, USA, 42.2 (25.6/30.3)
|Women's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Nicolien Sauerbreij, NED, – (+0.02/–)
🥈 Ekaterina Ilyukhina, RUS, +0.23 (–/+0.23)
🥉 Marion Kreiner, AUT, – (–/–)
|Men's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Jasey-Jay Anderson, CAN, – (+0.76/–)
🥈 Benjamin Karl, AUT, +0.35 (–/+0.35)
🥉 Mathieu Bozzetto, FRA, – (–/–)
American action-sports icon Shaun White began his sensational Olympic career as a 19-year-old in Turin, Italy, a city both known in its native tongue and branded by the IOC as Torino. Wearing an American flag bandana over his face, White got off to a slow start in the qualifying round but bounced back to earn the highest score. Then in the final, White reeled off consecutive 1080s and a pair of 900s to take a commanding lead. With none of his competitors able to top him in their second runs, White was free to take a victory lap through the pipe for his. Joining him on the podium was teammate Danny Kass, who won his second straight silver medal. Denying the Americans a second straight medal sweep in the event was Markku Koski of Finland. Mason Aguirre was fourth.
Hannah Teter won the women's halfpipe contest to give the U.S. another 1-2-4 finish and a sweep of both golds for the second year in a row. Gretchen Bleiler took silver and Kjersti Buass of Norway claimed bronze. Kelly Clark, the 2002 champion, was in third after the first run but slipped on her final jump in run two and ended up in fourth.
In the Olympic debut of snowboard cross, it was U.S. racer Lindsey Jacobellis making headlines for a heartbreaking mistake. In the final, the 20-year-old opened up an untouchable lead over the rest of the field and had an easy victory in the bag. But with the finish line in sight, Jacobellis opted to entertain the fans in attendance by launching a backside method grab over the second-to-last jump. It didn't go as planned. She crashed and was passed by Switzerland's Tanja Frieden. Jacobellis, who recovered in time to get silver, initially said she performed the move to "create stability," but hours later explained what really happened: "Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd. I messed up. Oh well, it happens." Canadian Dominique Maltais, who along with teammate Maelle Ricker crashed early on in the race, recovered to claim the bronze medal.
The U.S. wouldn't be shut out of gold medals in snowboard cross, though. A day earlier, Seth Wescott – who at the time was coincidently dating Frieden – won the men's race. With top contending Canadians Jasey Jay Anderson and Drew Neilson failing to make the final, Wescott took on Radoslav Zidek of Slovakia, France’s Paul-Henri de Le Rue, and Spaniard Jordi Font in the medal race. Wescott crossed the finish line first by just a half-board.
In men's parallel giant slalom, Philipp and Simon Schoch of Switzerland became just the third set of brothers to go 1-2 at the Olympic Winter Games in any event, joining American skeleton racers Jennison and John Heaton from the 1928 St. Moritz Games and alpine slalom skiers Phil and Steve Mahre from the 1984 Sarajevo Games. It was younger brother Philipp's second straight win at the Olympics. Austrian Siegfried Grabner won the bronze.
In the women’s PGS, Daniela Meuli of Switzerland won gold ahead of 18-year-old German Amelie Kober, who crashed in her second run of the gold-silver race. Still, Kober became the youngest snowboarder to win a medal at the Olympics. American Rosey Fletcher, known for her disasters at the 1998 and 2002 Games, won the bronze.
|Men's Halfpipe||🥇 Shaun White, USA, 46.8 (46.8/26.6)
🥈 Danny Kass, USA, 44.0 (20.8/44.0)
🥉 Markku Koski, FIN, 41.5 (41.5/31.4)
|Women's Halfpipe||🥇 Hannah Teter, USA, 46.4 (44.6/46.4)
🥈 Gretchen Bleiler, USA, 43.4 (41.5/43.4)
🥉 Kjersti Buaas, NOR, 42.0 (40.9/42.0)
|Men's Snowboard Cross||🥇 Seth Wescott, USA
🥈 Radoslav Zidek, SVK
🥉 Paul-Henri de Le Rue, FRA
|Women's Snowboard Cross||🥇 Tanja Frieden, SUI
🥈 Lindsey Jacobellis, USA
🥉 Dominique Maltais, CAN
|Men's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Philipp Schoch, SUI, – (–/–)
🥈 Simon Schoch, SUI, +0.73 (+0.88/+0.73)
🥉 Sigi Grabner, AUT, – (–/–)
|Women's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Daniela Meuli, SUI, – (–/–)
🥈 Amelie Kober, GER, +15.97 (+0.21/+15.97)
🥉 Rosey Fletcher, USA, – (–/–)
Salt Lake 2002
Park City's snowboarding venue was the most raucous locale during the 2002 Games, with upwards of 30,000 fans taking particular delight in the halfpipe competitions. And its pair of contests gave the Americans in attendance plenty to cheer about. In the women's event, Vermont native Kelly Clark, then just 18 years old, overcame injuries to win the host nation's first gold of the Games. During a practice run three days before the final, Clark took a hard fall and suffered a bruised tailbone and a broken wrist. In excruciating pain, she missed practice. But two days later excitement took over, and she managed to edge France's Doriane Vidal for gold with a second-run 47.9 in the final.
The next day, the crowd was thrilled when a trio of U.S. snowboarders swept the men's halfpipe podium: 1998 Olympic bronze medalist Ross Powers, Danny Kass and JJ Thomas. Their performances marked the first time since 1956 in men's figuring skating that Americans had won all three medals in a Winter Games event.
One of the most inspirational stories came from 29-year-old American Chris Klug, who won bronze in men's parallel giant slalom less than two years after undergoing liver transplant surgery.
|Women's Halfpipe||🥇 Kelly Clark, USA, 47.9 (40.8/47.9)
🥈 Doriane Vidal, FRA, 43.0 (43.0/36.5)
🥉 Fabienne Reuteler, SUI, 39.7 (39.7/29.3)
|Men's Halfpipe||🥇 Ross Powers, USA, 46.1 (46.1/32.0)
🥈 Danny Kass, USA, 42.5 (42.5/41.5)
🥉 JJ Thomas, AUT, 42.1 (33.2/42.1)
|Women's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Isabelle Blanc, FRA, – (–/+0.15)
🥈 Karine Ruby, FRA, +1.74 (+1.89/–)
🥉 Lidia Trettel, ITA, – (+0.17/–)
|Men's Parallel Giant Slalom||🥇 Philipp Schoch, SUI, – (–/–)
🥈 Richard Richardsson, SWE, DQ (+0.24/DQ)
🥉 Chris Klug, USA, – (–/–)
Snowboarding was included in the Olympic program for the first time in Nagano, Japan, and its first-ever gold medal at the Games went to Canada's Ross Rebagliati for his win in the men's giant slalom. But that distinction initially lasted just a few days. Rebagliati had tested positive for marijuana and was stripped of his medal three days after triumph. Fortunately, the Court for Arbitration of Sport reinstated his medal the next day.
Little-known Gian Simmen of Switzerland won the men’s halfpipe gold, edging the flamboyant Norwegian Daniel Franck and his leopard-skin hairstyle; and Karine Ruby of France blew away the competition in the women’s giant slalom, topping silver medalist Heidi Renoth of Germany by nearly two seconds.
In women’s halfpipe, Germany’s Nicola Thost took advantage of a near-fall by American Shannon Dunn to take the gold. Dunn fell to third place behind Norway’s Stine Brun Kjeldaas.
|Men's Giant Slalom||🥇 Ross Rebagliati, CAN, 2:03.96 (59.87/1:04.09)
🥈 Thomas Prugger, ITA, 2:03.98 (59.38/1:04.60)
🥉 Ueli Kestenholz, SUI, 2:04.08 (1:00.20/1:03.88)
|Women's Giant Slalom||🥇 Karine Ruby, FRA, 2:17.34 (1:09.33/1:08.01)
🥈 Heidi Renoth, GER, 2:19.17 (1:11.92/1:07.25)
🥉 Brigitte Kock, AUT, 2:19.42 (1:13.01/1:06.41)
|Women's Halfpipe||🥇 Nicola Thost, GER, 74.6 (37.5/37.1)
🥈 Stine Brun Kjeldaas, NOR, 74.2 (36.7/37.5)
🥉 Shannon Dunn, USA, 72.8 (38.8/34.0)
|Men's Halfpipe||🥇 Gian Simmen, SUI, 85.2 (43.8/41.4)
🥈 Daniel Franck, NOR, 82.4 (38.1/44.3)
🥉 Ross Powers, USA, 82.1 (40.3/41.8)
When was snowboarding invented?
It all started with the "Snurfer" — essentially, a toy for children invented in 1965. The board had no bindings; instead, the user steered the board by use of a rope attached to the front.
With the Snurfer gaining popularity and attracting a few daredevil participants, the years that followed featured new products building on the Snurfer's concept. In the late 1970s, Jake Burton and Tom Sims separately began to mass-produce their own board prototypes, paving the way for what would become the modern snowboard.
The competition scene began to flourish in the 1980s. One of the first major contests was the National Snowboarding Championships, launched in 1982 by a group of people that included pro Snurfer Paul Graves. The event, which was held in Vermont, soon came under the control of Burton and was eventually renamed the U.S. Open.
While the East Coast riders, led by Burton, were focused on racing, there was more of a freestyle revolution taking place out west. Riders began to shape man-made hits which were based on the design of skateboard ramps known as "halfpipes." In 1983 in California, Sims organized the World Snowboarding Championships, an event which featured the first snowboard halfpipe contest.
As the sport continued to gain national attention, more ski resorts started allowing snowboarders on their slopes. By 1990, snowboarders could go to just about any major resort.
It was also at this time that the first terrain park was built at Bear Mountain in California. Based on the layout of skateboard parks that could be found all over Southern California, this snowboard park incorporated natural terrain and hand-placed obstacles for riders to session. This type of park soon became common at resorts across the country and would become the impetus for slopestyle competitions.
When was snowboarding added to the Olympics?
Snowboarding was one of the sports represented at the first-ever Winter X Games in 1997. A year later, it made its Olympic debut at the 1998 Nagano Games, with halfpipe and giant slalom contested. Snowboard cross was added to the Olympic program in 2006, slopestyle premiered in 2014, and big air will make its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
NBC Olympics Research and Olympedia.org contributed to this article