Remembering early snowboarding competitions

Sims decided to open the first World Snowboarding Championships in 1983 at the Soda Springs Ski Bowl in California. As the first-ever snowboard halfpipe contest, the event was quite controversial, and the Burton team threatened to boycott the competition because “they felt that halfpipe riding had nothing to do with snowboarding.”

As Dave Alden remembers, Sims was running the championships, as well as competing and winning events, which put Sims in a tight position. He was “happy to let the battle go,” when the event was relocated from Soda Springs Ski Bowl to Breckenridge in 1986. Fran Richards and Alden, a professional snowboarder on the Burton team during the 1980s — along with help from Alden’s father — Dave, went to Breckenridge with the idea. The ski resort accepted host responsibilities for the competition and began work on digging a halfpipe. However, the men had to “convince (Breckenridge) that the halfpipe was not a speed event,” said Richards. “They thought it was an alpine event.”

The event at Breckenridge drew a large amount of media attention, and the 1986 and 1987 contests were even sponsored by Swatch, which was a “big deal.”

Washington’s Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom contest, a favorite among riders, was first held in 1985. The event is legendary due to the challenging race course, which features halfpipe-like gullies, with gates on the chute walls. Sims won the first contest, and winners in other years have been big names in snowboarding, including Craig Kelly, Shaun Palmer and Rob Morrow.

By 1987, Paul Alden and a group of riders and manufacturers from the North American Snowboarding Association (N.A.S.B.A.), with an aim to create a cohesive World Cup tour system with the Snowboard European Association (S.E.A.). That same year, the first World Cup tour began, with two events in the United States and two in Europe.

These first few contests throughout the 1980s established the importance of competitive snowboarding, and served as venues for riders to show new tricks, technology, board features and ideas. As Sims remembers, “The actual events themselves seemed to stimulate innovations.”

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