30 Years of Snowboarding at Vail

Feb. 21, 2018

1995- Vail, CO.

It was 1989, the best snowboard was the Burton Air, the ‘cool’ outfit of choice was a nylon onesie paired with a neon headband and the first snowboard magazine, Absolutely Radical, was making its way into homes. This season marks the 30th year that Vail has allowed snowboarders on the mountain, and it began as a two-month trial period at the end of the 1987-88 ski season. After the trial period, mountain officials were confident that skiers and snowboarders could co-exist, and snowboarders were officially welcomed to the mountain for the 1988-89 season. The introduction of snowboarders was met with both support and opposition, Vail Associates Executive Vice President of Mountain Operations at the time, Larry Lichliter told the Vail Trail in 1988. Although not everyone was on the same page with the integration of snowboarders to an all skiing mountain, Vail became an all-inclusive mountain allowing a once forbidden sport to thrive on its limitless terrain.

Vail went on to play a major role in helping snowboarding develop by organizing and hosting the first 2 USSA Snowboarding National championships which paved the way for a US Snowboarding Team to go into 1998 Nagano Olympics. We continue to support snowboarding and its limit pushing progression through hosting the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships; as the premier event of the competitive snowboarding season, the Burton US Open showcases the most progressive riding from the world’s top athletes in both slopestyle and halfpipe. In our local community, we help inspire youth to make positive decisions for healthy and successful decisions through the Snowboard Outreach Society which was founded by Arn Menconi and Ray Sforzo (Vail’s original Director of Snowboarding) in 1992 in attempt to improve the negative societal perception of the snowboard culture from the 1980s and early 1990s. Today, Vail’s Ski & Ride School continues to host SOS Winter Learn to Ride and SnowCore programs which has expanded to 50,000 youth in programs through the US compared to 200 in 1998 when the program originated in Eagle County.

Not only do we continue to support Snowboarding through hosting events and programs like SOS and the Burton US Open, but we also have unique ties to snowboarding’s legacy within our very own Ski & Ride School. Out of the original members of the school: Ray Sfarzo, Jimmy & Johnny Easton, ‘Diamond’ Dave Wilson, and Derek Freedman, three of them are still in uniform today. This year Ray will be celebrating 32 years with the Vail Snowboard School, with Derek and Dave right behind him celebrating their 30th anniversaries. Vail’s snowboard program grew quickly into the mid 90’s when legends such as Chris ‘Sando’ Sandowski and Lowell Hart, (an original Snowboard National Team member) joined to help develop one of the most prestigious and largest snowboard schools in the world to date. Our Vail & Beaver Creek Snowboard Teaching Handbook that was developed by our Snowboard School trainers, specifically by the gentleman mentioned above, evolved to become the standard and guidelines for snowboard instructors throughout the entire industry when the American Association of Snowboard Instructors adopted this resource decades ago. This manual wasn’t the only in-house contribution to Snowboard Instruction- the current AASI Technical Manual was authored by our very own Jason Schetrompf, who is our General Manager of  Children’s Programs as well as a examiner with the Rocky Mountain division of AASI.


Celebration- Come Ride! 
In honor of Vail’s legacy in snowboarding, Ray Sforzo has put together some gatherings to help celebrate 30 years of sliding sideways. Joining Ray: Arn Menconi and Gary Eno, former owner of Island Water Sports- Vails first real snowboard shop as well as our longtime friends mentioned above.

Below is the list of events, come out and celebrate the history of the culture that is Vail Snowboarding! Organized by snowboarders, for anyone interested, whether you ride one plank or two..

Saturday Feb 23rd: Riding with Ray Sforzo
9am @ Gondola 1

Saturday Feb 23rd: Picnic at the Wildwood Deck
1:30pm – 2:30pm

Sunday Feb 24thRiding with Ray Sforzo 
9am @ Gondola 1

Sunday Feb 24th: Instructor / Alumni Party @ Altitude
4:30pm – 9:00pm

Tuesday Feb 26th: Vail SB 30th Anniversary Party @ Pazzos
4:30pm – 8:30pm


Burton Slide Show Banked Slalom Schedule
Think you have what it takes to get the fastest time? Then head to the top of the course on Vail Mountain’s Black Forest Race Arena to register.

Thursday, February 28
10am-12pm & 1pm-3pm: Open to the Public

Friday, March 1
10am-12pm & 1pm-3pm: Open to the Public

Saturday, March 2
10am-1pm: Open to the Public


Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum in Vail Transportation Center
If you are in Vail, stop by the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum! The ‘Out There’ exhibit features the history and evolution of snowboarding, both in Colorado and throughout the nation. One of the most comprehensive collections of snowboarding history, the exhibit is seen through the eyes of some of the individuals who helped transform the dream of snowboarding into reality.  The current explosion in popularity of backcountry skiing and snowboarding is also reflected within this display, with both new and old equipment and essential information.