A Primer for Competitive Snowboarding Events

by on February 10th, 2011
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Competitive snowboarding events come in many varieties, and there are two main types: race events and trick events. Both kinds are found in the Winter Olympics and the Winter X Games, as well as other snowboarding competitions.

Although there are many other types of competitions, these five are among the most popular:

Snowboard Cross

Often called boardercross, this is a unique racing event where four snowboarders start at the same time and see who can get to the bottom of the course fastest. Typically, the top two in each heat advance to the next round until there are only four participants remaining, and they go against each other in the championship round. Because the competitors are racing in close quarters, collisions are common and a lot of protective gear is needed. This is an Olympic and an X Games event, though it is called Snowboard X in the latter.


Even though there are many variations to this event, the basics are always the same: The snowboarder goes back and forth between two ramps, and attempts tricks while airborne. Many competitions have each boarder perform two runs in a round, and it’s normal for each of them to do six to eight tricks per run. Two rounds are usually enough to determine the winner. The half-pipe is an Olympic event, and in the X Games there is a variation called the SuperPipe, which uses higher ramps.

Big Air

This is an exciting event where the rider heads down a huge ramp–some are over 100 feet high–and then launches off a jump at the bottom. Some contests only judge distance, but most require the snowboarder to do tricks and aim for a clean landing. While this isn’t an Olympic event, it can be found in the X Games.


As in skiing, the slalom is a race where the competitors must travel between pairs of poles called gates. The gates are arranged in such a way that the snowboarder has to make many quick turns. There are many types of slalom, including the giant slalom, which has more of an emphasis on speed than turns. There is also the super G, where speed is much more important than turning. You won’t find the slalom at the X Games, but there are a couple of variations of it at the Olympics.


My personal favorite event, slopestyle is a type of competition where the boarder goes down a trail filled with various jumps, rails, boxes, and other obstacles that can be used to perform tricks. The goal is to perform several well-executed tricks to impress the judges, and time is not a factor. This is one of the more popular X Games events, and it will make its first appearance at the Olympics in 2014.

Floyd Saunders is a native of snowy Minnesota. He has been a downhill and cross-country skier since childhood, and he has dabbled in snowboarding, snowshoeing, hockey, and ice fishing.

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