Now that the 2018 Winter Olympics Games has come to a close, it is an appropriate time to reflect on one of the biggest Winter sports: snowboarding. Believe it or not, snowboarding was once banned at ski resorts, but that was in the wild west days of this aesthetically arctic sport, before the likes of Ross Powers, Kelly Clark, and Shaun White made it the respected sport and household name that it is today.
Time Magazine once referred to snowboarding as “The worst new sport.” And while it did have a rough go with its humble beginnings as an Olympic winter sport, snowboarding has gone from odd one out to a mainstream golden child in a little less than a decade. So, to celebrate the athletes that participated in this sport in the past Winter games below is a brief history of snowboarding in the Winter Olympics.
Making the Olympics Cool Again
Known for being a counterculture favorite, snowboarding was often the back pocket gem for those involved in the sport. But In 1995, snowboarding was added as an official sport to the Olympic Winter Games. It made its debut in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, but even with its addition as an official Olympic sport, no one could have foretold of its popularity in mainstream culture some twenty years later. While the sport was a bit slow coming out of the gate in 1998, all of that started to change in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, where snowboarding went from up-and-comer to full-fledged Olympic sport.
Perhaps the highlight of the Salt Lake City Olympics was when 18-year-old Kelly Clark, in front of thousands of Americans, won the country’s first gold medal of the Games. A day later, Ross Powers, Danny Kass and JJ Thomas dominated the men’s halfpipe. Then, seemingly all at once, snowboarding became the Olympic sport that all the cool kids wanted to be a part of.
Continuing to Grow
Perhaps its first truly mainstream star, it’s undeniable at this point that Shaun White is a huge name in the sport of snowboarding. And in 2006, snowboarding found an athlete with the charisma needed to take it to the next level. With White’s domination of the 2006 Vancouver games, many Americans found themselves cheering for a sport that was less than fifty years old, and the sport truly found a home with old and young alike.
While it has certainly endured its fair share of growing pains, snowboarding continues a positive, upward trajectory both in the skill of its athletes and the popularity of it as a sport. And after a disappointing run for Shaun White in the 2014 games, White solidified himself as a true comeback kid in the 2018 games, a title that snowboarding itself has earned over the past twenty years, as well.
In the 2018 games, seventeen different nations earned a medal in snowboarding, with the U.S. at the top of the list and Canada coming in second. Truly, it was a great year for snowboarding as a whole, and indicative of its continual climb as a sport that showcases the excellence and skill of extreme athletes.