Tom Routh – Snowboarding Part 1

Chapter 1; East vs. West, 1983 – 1990

Chapter 1 wasn’t even old school – it was pre-school. This was the stage when snowboarding really was an ‘alternative’ sport. People didn’t even know what it was, and every lift line was fifty questions… Riding style and equipment was evolving constantly and dramatically. ‘Magazines’ were really underground newsletters.. and you pretty much knew everybody in the scene. Everyone involved was pioneering a new learning curve. We were the first generation, and we had no idea snowboarding was headed where it is today.

Circa 1985, Mt. Bachelor in Bend Oregon – This is a shot of my original crew, Mike Myers and John Glorioso. Unloading some fresh 1500fe swallowtails from the back of the International. Recent innovations included p-tex, metal edges, and the ‘high back’. Check out the above board review – the bit in the last paragraph describing ‘rocker’! (It took another 22 years to go full circle and realize that was actually a good idea). [Note: Shaun White wasn’t even born yet.]

Way back, before working with Jake, I was riding for Tom. In those days it was East vs. West, Burton vs. Sims, and Jake vs. Tom. Competition was king, and the two reigning teams; Sims and Burton were battling..

The ’88 U.S. Open was my first Men’s Pro Worldcup, at the invincible age of 17. In the above shot pushing nearly 60mph in the downhill. Note the strategic duct tape wrap on my boots – the high wrap on the front boot for enhanced high speed stability… errr. The board was a hand-made protoype DH competition model with virtually no tip or tail at all. This was crazy progressive in the day. I got it the day before the event – and only had time to ride it for a few runs that morning before dropping in for the race. This was the 1st board that was stable cruising big turns at 40+ mph. I remember making the first few turns and just thinking, ‘whoa! this is the next level’.

Check out the roster of characters from the 1988 U.S. Open at Stratton…

Mt. Bachelor was the west coast epicenter at the time. ‘Locals’ included Craig Kelly, Chis Klug, Rob Morrow, Sean Dillard, Scott Downey, Shannon Melhuse, Mike Renquet, Sanders Nye, Todd VanBelkum, Chris Karol, Kris Jamieson… and the list went on. A regional competition was practically a world cup with the local talent stack up. We owned the mountain, and were all pushing each other. Looking back, those were the golden years of snowboarding progression.

Check out the progression from ISM to TWS snowboarding in just 3 years. I got the cover of issue #3 in ’88 riding a horizontal lam. 1650 ‘kidwell’ roundtail.

Pre-1990 there were no sponsored ‘free -riders’. Everything was driven by contest results. The below shots show the vertical lam. kidwell, next to what looks like a 1610 Blade. The halfpipe shot is riding the kidwell in spring 1989.

This last shot from 89/90 was riding a 1712 Blade, with the black carbon base. I had been training GS that day, and hit this one jump for the photog. on the way to the lodge.

The next year Sims Snowboards activities were frozen by the courts during a legal dispute with Vision Street Wear. Sims never really recovered, and this marked a pivotal change in the industry/marketplace. Tom Sims played a huge role in the formative years of our sport, and deserves more recognition than he gets. Note to modern groms; respect your heritage. You would not be doing what you’re doing today without the generations of progression that came before you.


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