Chair lifts are spinning, skin tracks are being laid and the joys of winter are once again the center of conversation. To ensure you sound slightly intelligent over après, we’ve compiled a list of ten names integral to snowboarding’s history; everyone who stands sideways should have these riders in their vocabulary.
Craig Kelly (1966-2003)
Hometown: Mount Vernon, Washington
Best known for: Helping mold the professional circuit, then leaving it all behind to pioneer the term “freeride”
The “Godfather of Snowboarding,” as many know him, Craig Kelly pushed freestyle riding to new limits when snowboarding was first heating up in the 80s-90s. He moved his family to British Colombia and was working to become a full-time certified backcountry guide when an avalanche took his life in 2003.
Hometown: Vinje, Norway
Best known for: Divine method grabs and monster airs, boycotting the 1998 Olympics, advocating for authenticity in the sport
Terje Haakonsen brought a new, no-holds-barred freestyle flare to snowboard competitions during the 90s and stood on the podium more than any other rider. His unique style is seen most often in backcountry terrain these days, but his influence on all aspects of the sport has been momentous.
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Best known for: A powder riding style worth mimicking, ditching the media spotlight for deep powder and big mountains
“The Guch” still rides professionally and is now also a mountain guide in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but was once on the forefront of freestyle snowboarding in Southern California. Approaching 40 years old, Bryan Iguchi has racked up more days on a board than most.
Hometown: El Dorado Hills, California
Best known for: Unmatched all-around board talent, leaving the limelight for peaceful powder, steeper lines and fly-fishing
Kevin Jones did it all during snowboarding’s hey day – park, big-mountain, and everything between – and to this day has some of the best style seen on film. He signed the first million-dollar snowboarding contract in the 90s before pulling the plug on his sponsors to move to bigger mountains, and now rides with the best…on his own dime.
Hometown: North Lake Tahoe, California
Best known for: Winterstick Snowboards; One of the first to hike and ride steep, exposed backcountry lines
Tom Burt was a math professor before he became one of the first to earn their turns in America’s backcountry. He is now head judge on The North Face Masters tour, owner of Winterstick Snowboards and still charging lines that most 20 year olds wouldn’t dream of.
Hometown: Muskegon, Michigan
Best known for: Inventing the first “snowboard”
In 1966, Sherman Poppen brought the first snowboard to market. The “Snurfer,” short for “ snow surfer,” had no bindings; just a tether and a stomp pad. The Grandfather of Snowboarding originally designed it for his kids and did not start riding himself until he was 67 years old. In 1995, he was inducted into Snowboarding’s Hall of Fame.
Hometown: Cedarhurst, New York
Best known for: Burton Snowboards
Jake Burton raced Snurfers until 1977 when he brought to market the first snowboard with bindings and let go of the rope. Burton Snowboards has since withstood the test of time by leading the industry in hard goods and soft goods, with credit due to innovative design work and an unparalleled team of professional athletes.
Tom Sims (1950-2012)
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Best known for: Sims Snowboards
For many years Tom Sims and Jake Burton battled in downhill competitions before they fought for the top spot in snowboard manufacturing; Sims from the West Coast, Burton from the East. Both claimed to invent the first board with bindings attached. Sims’ reasoning for designing his version? He couldn’t skateboard in winter.
Marco Siffredi (1979-2002)
Hometown: Chamonix, France
Best known for: Numerous first descents in the French Alps and the first true descent off Mt. Everest, all by age 22
Credited as the first person to snowboard off the summit of Mt. Everest (circa 2001), Marco Siffredi was riding steeper lines twenty years ago than most of the best are riding now. He died on Everest in 2002 on an attempt of the Hornbein Couloir.
Hometown: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Best known for: Pioneering splitboarding, fighting climate change with Protect Our Winters (POW), the Deeper, Further, Higher trilogy.
Before he started filming big lines in Alaska with brothers Todd and Steve Jones for the first Teton Gravity Research (TGR) films, little brother Jeremy was gunning for a spot on the 1998 U.S. Olympic team. He now inspires others to safely explore deep into the backcountry while minimizing their carbon footprint.