Tom Burt – one of snowboarding’s greatest

It would not be fair to say that Tom Burt, a local Tahoe lad, was the grandaddy of snowboarding, but it would be fair to say that he has been on the scene since snowboarding’s earliest days and he has always been true to the truest form of this sport. Forget performing in snowparks – he stayed on the mountain where the real challenges were and are!

In fact, what this man gets up to is truly remarkable. First and foremost he is a backcountry man. And what backcountry…

“Start at the top, end at the bottom. Flow all the way through with energy and excitement without a lot of traversing or stalling. You want people to go “Wow, someone just rode that mountain really well.” Life according to Tom Burt!

Tom Burt has been on the snowboarding scene since it first kicked off. “I took third in a race put on by Avalanche Snowboards in 1985, and Chris Sanders from Avalanche asked me if I wanted to be sponsored. ‘What does that mean?’ I asked. He said, ‘I’ll give you a board when I make one.”” Although he didn’t get a board for another two months, he was officially launched as a pro and as a pro he has certainly stood the test of time.

The best snowboard rider in the world


photo courtesy of Dan Milner

 Huuuuuge photo, but an absolute must to give you the scale of his backcountry exploits!

When asked what he’s most proud of in his career, he says simply, “I got to do more powder turns than most people will ever dream about.”

Tom Burt is now a guide/rider in the Juneau area with Alaska Heliskiing – where he still works today. “Last year was my fifteenth season,” he says proudly. Guiding just puts me more in tune with the mountains and how they breathe.” His mountain lore is second to  none and is widely respected. He is also a judge for the North Face Masters of Snowboarding event – a competitive big mountain snowboarding competition which began in 2008.

Tom Burt’s line on Cordova Peak

Tom has 3 simple rules that he lives by…

  1. Most importantly: to have as much fun as he can with what he has.
  2. To eat as well as possible in order to have the health and strength to have as much fun as possible.
  3. To keep the house in reasonable order, wash the dishes etc…  but not to let the third rule interfere with the first two!

Without Tom Burt, big-mountain riding would never have reached such dizzy heights… and I mean that quite literally. Throughout the 1980s, he led the way into the backcountry, initially forced into backcountry because snowboarding was banned from ski areas… imagine that? 30 years on and you can’t even contemplate a time when snowboarders were not allowed on the same pistes as skiers! But when snowboarding began it was seriously frowned at, the attitude of the ski world being “You guys are idiots, what are you doing out here on the snow? This is not a sport”.

Hmmm. History has proven otherwise and snowboarding was here to stay. However,  Burt did not conform to snowboarding rules and legislation. Rather than fall in line, after the intitial years he preferred life outside events and competitions – powder and power riding held far more allure for him and it was something he was drawn to “just because…..” 

People, he says, always tell him they don’t have time to do what they would like. His response to this: “We have the same time, it is just how you use it!”

Feature photo courtesy of Cris Wellhausen

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