Vermonter invents snowboarding and shapes the Winter Olympics as we know them


While many Vermonters became Olympic athletesanother Vermonter has made a name for himself by creating a winter sport in which they compete to gain international recognition.

This year, the 2022 Winter Olympics are set to begin on Feb. 4 in Beijing, and among the seasonal sports will be snowboarding, invented by Vermont’s Jake Burton Carpenter in Londonderry.

According to a personal timeline he made of his life in the months before his death, Carpenter was “addicted to snow and the mountains”, after his first family ski trip in 1961. Seven years later, Carpenter bought a Snurfer that would fuel his passion for the sport that we know today.

Snowboard visionary: Jake Burton Carpenter has died aged 65

Jake Burton Carpenter snowboards in this 1998 file photo.

The Snurfer was a board shorter and wider than a traditional ski with an attached rope for steering – an invention created and made popular by Sherman Poppen in 1965 after he tied two skis together so his children could play with one day of Snowy Christmas, according to the Snurfer website.

Carpenter said he knew deep down that snowboarding could become a sport.

“So I quit my job in New York, moved to Londonderry, Vermont, and started ‘Burton Boards’ in a barn in a house where I was the home sitter and where I lived. ‘took care of the two horses,” he said. “By night, I was a bartender at the Birkenhaus Inn. By day, I built makeshift snowboard prototypes and tested them in the hills of southern Vermont.”

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Despite Carpenter’s prototypes being developed in the late 70s and the invention of the Snurfer before that, snowboarding was not recognized by the International Olympic Committee as a sport until 1994.

This year, Vermont natives Alex Deibold and Lindsey Jacobellis will both compete in snowboarding events at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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Summer Sorg is a reporter for the Burlington Free Press. Contact her at [email protected]


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