Learning how to snurf with Claudio Laager

How the ancestor of the modern snowboard is taking Arosa by storm

It was on Christmas Day 1965 that American father Sherman Poppen watched his daughter stand on her sled and glide down a snowy slope. Struck by inspiration, he immediately took a pair of his daughter’s skis and set about binding them together about at the tips and tails. The ‘Snurfer’ was born. The name, a portmanteau of the words ‘snow’ and ‘surf’, was a creation of Sherman’s wife Nancy. It wasn’t long before everyone on the street wanted one; by 1976, Poppen had sold about a million units of this original design.

The design of the Snurfer evolved over the years. The board part was made longer and wider; bindings were attached for the feet. Eventually, it began to be known as the ‘snowboard’ – the name it famously still holds today. Now, however, more and more snowboarders are returning to the roots of their sport – including Claudio Laager, manager of the Valsana Hotel in Arosa.

Claudio was already a keen snowboarder by the age of 10. At that time in the early ‘90s, he remembers, the sport was anything but in demand: the slopes and lifts were poorly equipped for the new equipment and riding techniques, and the predominantly young boarders were deemed unwelcome trespassers on the pistes. This changed throughout the course of the 90s, as snowboarding spread and became popularised as a winter sport.

The Snurfer, meanwhile, faded more and more into obscurity – hence Claudio’s mission to bring this retro pastime back to life. As part of Moving Mountains, he offers guests snurfing courses and tours in the deep powder fields of Arosa.


“Anyone can learn how to snurf with a little practice. It’s quick to get the hang of it – and Arosa is the perfect place to do so. Snurfing requires deep powder snow, and you don’t have to go far here to find it. Even in the middle of the village, there’s a pristine slope to be found at almost every turn. It’s crazy good fun! You fall into the powder snow, get up and carry on again – just like in the good old days.”

Claudio Laager, Manager of the Valsana Hotel

And how to snurf? The principle is very simple: stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart on the board and hold on to the cord. With your knees slightly bent, the body’s centre of gravity is shifted downwards. As for what comes after that, there are a hundred different ways to explain it; what really matters, however, is the feeling. Thanks to the lack of bindings, you have the mountain directly under your feet: you feel every nook and ridge in the terrain. For Claudio Laager, the magic of the experience comes not only from this connection with nature, but from the connection to the origins of the sport: “You feel like a pioneer.”

Want to trace the roots of snowboarding for yourself? Sample snurfing as a Moving Mountains PLAY activity – we’ll be delighted to show you the ropes.

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