The Legend of Snowboarding Icon Tom Burt

By on September 2, 2014

(From Red Bull Content Pool)

In a world of specialists, it is still the all-rounder, or ‘complete’ snowboarders that get true respect. Riders like Travis Rice, Nicolas Müller, Gigi Rüf and Jake Blauvelt are all examples of ‘complete’ snowboarders who honed their skills in pipes and parks before stepping up to Alaska, the ultimate proving ground.

But these guys are just the latest evolution in a long line of all-rounders that stretches back to the birth of the sport in the early 1980s. And, ask any one of them on whose shoulders they are standing, and there is one name that will always come up: Tom Burt.

Growing up on skis around Lake Tahoe, Tom first strapped into a board in 1982, and soon become a hot local at the legendary Tahoe halfpipe, the birthplace of freestyle snowboarding. But, always more interested in riding the mountain than the tricks, he began exploring the backcountry, seeking out bigger and faster lines. Nobody realised it at the time, but while everyone else was freestyling (or racing), Tom was developing a whole new branch of the sport. By the end of the 80s, Tom had become the star of a niche he had created: the big mountain freerider. Through his regular parts in the Totally Board film series, snowboarders around the world were having their minds blown by Tom’s fluid all-mountain approach. Meanwhile, Tom was pushing his game towards the ultimate frontier: Alaska.

The years rolled by, and the stars of the first era faded, to be replaced by the second, and third… but Tom, who was by his own measure an ‘old man’ when he started, just kept on progressing. Throughout the 90s, he would drop new parts on an annual basis, each one with gnarlier lines and first descents than the last. Moving into the new millennium, Tom continued to work with the film crews as a guide, sharing his insight and experience with successive waves of talented pros coming to Alaska to make their mark where it matters the most.

From the infamous Juicy Fruit commercial of 1987 to the 1997 first descent of Cordova Peak and a hundred other landmark descents, Burt’s legacy is unequalled. Today, as head judge on the Freeride World Tour, he remains the single unbroken link going back to the birth of the sport, and he’s still purely in it for the fun.

About Skip Snead

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