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59-year-old snowboarder welcomes worldwide competition back to Colorado

David Riordon built his first board back in the 1970s. He hopes this weekend's competition will help bridge a gap between snowboard pioneers and the next generation.

DENVER — David Riordon has a history with snowboarding here in Colorado that dates to the 1970s. He and his brother grew up in Castle Rock, and he said he saw an article that changed his favorite sport from skateboarding to a new way of going down a snowy hill.

“One day, in skateboard magazine 1978, I saw a picture of a guy riding a thing called ‘ski board’,” Riordon said. “That gave us the idea to build our own ski board. The word ‘snowboard’ wasn’t even used back then.”

Credit: David Riordon
David Riordon and his brother built their first "ski board" in 1978.

He said he and his brother built their first board more than 40 years ago and were forced to ride in areas outside ski resorts.

“When we first started, it was underground. We were not accepted at ski resorts,” Riordon said. “The ski industry in general did not want snowboarding around. We were shunned, we were told ‘don’t show up.’”

Credit: David Riordon
David Riordon rides his snowboard down Berthoud Pass in 1984.

In 1983, he was invited to the Burton National Snowboarding Championships in Vermont, started by Burton Snowboards founder Jake Burton Carpenter. Riordon said it was his first snowboarding championship contest and one he would never forget.

“I did fabulously,” Riordon said. “I crashed within like halfway down the hill…I thought I broke my arm I hit so bad, but popped back up, rode through the beam and got a time. [I was] one of the slower guys that day, but I survived.”

Credit: Byron Reed

It was a competition that also has some history here in Colorado. The Burton U.S. Open moved from Vermont to Vail in 2013. Jake Burton passed away in 2019 because of complications due to recurring cancer, and the competition was shut down the next year due to the pandemic. 

Now, Riordon is helping bring the competition back to Denver through the company’s renewed contest called the Burton Mystery Series tour. The series is a grassroots community-style event that has stops throughout North America and Europe. Ruby Hill Rail Yard in southwest Denver was selected as one of the event stops, where people can compete in a banked slalom race and rider demos on the boxes and rails.

Credit: Byron Reed
59-year-old David Riordon plans to compete once again at the Burton Mystery Series tour this weekend at Ruby Hill Railyard in Denver.

“It’s showcasing snowboarding as it was 40 years ago, almost,” Riordon said. “I think it will be a bridging of the gap, and part of this being a historical moment is understanding the history of snowboarding, where it came from, the roots of snowboarding. And that will happen this weekend.”

The event is free to participants and spectators with spots available on a first come-first served basis. And at 59 years old, Riordon said he plans to participate once again this year.

Credit: Byron Reed
David Riordon rides his snow skate, a skateboard on top of a single ski, down Ruby Hill Railyards.

“My run 40 years ago was not the best, I’ll probably do about the same,” Riordon said. “This time, I’m going to ride a snow skate. It’s a skateboard on top of a single ski we call sub-deck.”

He said he’s amazed at the popularity with snowboarding and hopes this weekend will create new memories centered around a sport he still loves.

“It blows my mind that it grew to that size,” Riordon said. “[I’m] proud to be part of the beginning of it and through the phases of it.”

For more information about the Burton Mystery Series tour, click here: https://burtonmysteryseriesatrubyhill.splashthat.com/.

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