Snowboarding is a boardsport on snow similar to skiing. Snowboarding is an increasingly common winter sport throughout the world where participants strap a wooden board to their feet and slide down a snow-covered mountain. A snowboarder's equipment consists of: snowboard, boots, bindings and winter clothing. Snowboarding became a Winter Olympic Games medal eligible sport in 1998.
There are three primary sub-disciplines or sub-styles within snowboarding with each favoring a slightly different snowboard design.
The object in freeride is simply to have fun cruising down the mountain. The majority of snowboarders reside within this sub-style category. Freeride is also known as all-mountain snowboarding. Another variant of Freeriding is extreme snowboarding.
Freeride snowboarding is influenced significantly by surfing, where the focus is on making clean lines in the snow. Many freeride purists attach an almost spiritual connotation to carving down the mountain.
Describes snowboarders who prefer to spend most of their time getting air using ramps and half-pipes. Typically, a wider & shorter snowboard between 130 and 170 centimeters is combined with soft-shelled boots to afford the rider with more flexibility. The flexibility of the fiberglass snowboard allows it to flex on the transitions of a half pipe or obstacle, while the more flexible boots make it easier for the rider to make tight turns.
Freestyle snowboarding is influenced greatly by skateboarding. Many ski areas operate terrain parks which often simulate the urban skateboard environment, complete with handrails, funboxes and machine formed jumps.
Relative to freestyle and freeriding, there aren't very many people involved in the Alpine subdiscipline. Alpine snowboarders use longer, narrow boards and the hard-shelled boots which resemble ski boots. Another new discipline of alpine boarding is extreme carving which pushes carving to the limit, so that the whole body gets in contact with the snow. The alpine board is designed primarily for carving down pistes, both feet are angled sharply forward.
This type of boarding is usually for the solitary, fresh powder craving snowboarder who, most likely, hasn't the cash to spend at crowded upscale ski parks. Donning snowshoes or a split-board with skins, the backcountry snowboarder cuts a new path up the side of the mountain in search of the very best vistas and untouched snow.
The split-board is exactly that, a snowboard cut right down the middle. When apart, the two halves can be used like cross-country skis to shuffle up the hill. At the top of the run, the halves are recombined, and the bindings rotated back into their sideways positions. Those that don't make use of the split-board will usually strap their board to their back and hike with snowshoes.
The snowboards used in the different disciplines also come in different styles. Longer boards achieve higher speed and stability, shorter boards turn easier and are more suited for freestyle jumps. A flexible board can carve in tighter curves, but begins to wobble at higher speeds. Flexibility is generally determined by the board construction.
Aspects of the snowboard:
- length: Longer length means more stability, especially at high speeds, but harder to spin for freestyle tricks.
- width: The board's width should match the length of the boot for optimal performance.
- sidecut radius: The sidecut radius determines how tight the board turns. Shorter sidecut radii (tighter turns) are generally used on pipe while longer sidecut radii (wider turns) are used on freeride/alpine/racing/freeride boards.
- tail/nose width: Many freestyle boards have equal nose/tail specs for equal performance either direction. Freeride and alpine boards, however, have a directional shape with a wider and longer nose. Boards designed for powder conditions exaggerate the differences even more for more floatation on the powder.
Currently the following five types of boards are often discerned:
- Racing: long, very stiff, hard boots, slightly waisted, directional.
- Alpine: long, stiff, hard boots, slightly waisted, directional.
- Freecarve: very waisted, flexible, medium length, hard or soft boots, directional.
- Freeride: waisted, flexible, short to medium length, soft boots, directional.
- Freestyle (rails): waisted, flexible, short, soft boots, twin-directional, light.
- Freestyle (pipe): waisted, semi-stiff, medium length, soft boots, either twin direction or directional, light, deep sidecuts.
Snowboard bindings are called either hard boot or soft boot binding, depending on the shoe type needed to be worn.
Snowboard bindings, unlike ski bindings, do not automatically release upon impact or after falling over. With skis, this mechanism was originally meant to protect from nasty breaks caused by skis torn in different directions. It is not required when snowboarding, as the rider's legs are fixed in a static position. Furthermore it reduces the chance of the board going downhill riderless (and the rider speeding downhill on his back as he has no more means to keep a grip on a steep slope).
Bindings can be released manually and exist in strap-on and step-in variants. Step-in bindings need a stiffer shoe sole and are therefore more common for hard boot riders. Recently developed snowboards combine many different binding types.
Snowboard boots come in two main types, the hard boots and the soft boots. Hard boots are very similar to ski boots, providing higher stability during the ride and more control on the board. Soft boots have more similarities to winter boots, and allow for a more comfortable and flexible standing necessary for landing jumps and balancing on rails. Generally, hard boots are used for alpine, racing, and freecarve whereas soft boots are used in freestyle and freeride.
For more information, specifically on buying snowboard gear, see buying snowboards.
Learning How to Snowboard Typically, the first couple of days learning how to snowboard are harder than skiing, with many more falls and bruises. However, some consider snowboarding easier to learn than skiing, requiring only the mastery of two edges as opposed to four edges and two poles in skiing with no chance of crossing your skiis. Others believe that the snowboarding motion, which requires leaning into turns beyond the natural comfort level of one's center of gravity, and the lack of stability from just one edge are far more difficult skills to master than skiing.
- As the snowboard is not very stable unless it is in motion, the first lesson before learning to ride should be to learn to fall correctly to avoid injuries. The basic principle here is, when losing balance, to crouch down to reduce the falling height of the upper body.
- Wearing safety gear is highly recommended. The body parts most affected by injuries are the wrists, the tailbone and the head. Useful safety gear includes wrist guards, padded or protected snowboard pants and a helmet.
- Padding can be useful on other body parts like hips, knees, spine and shoulders.
- General safety tips for winter sports, alpine conditions and skiing should also be respected.
Contrary to popular belief, carving is not simply 'turning'. Most snowboarding and skiing turns simply require you to push against and skid to change directions. In carving, the boarder must turn without any skidding, ideally making a single, thin line in the snow. To successfully carve is not easy. To start off gain some good speed on a moderately steep slope to practice. Then intiate a hard turn by leaning into the turn. It is extremely important that you use your body weight to steer into the turn instead of kicking your legs out. It will be very uncomfortable at first because it requires that you go beyond a comfortable position over your center of gravity.
Jumping Jumping and getting air can be as simple as riding off a ramp or jumping like you would in real life. However, to get massive air, you will need to utilize a technique known as the ollie. This move, like many snowboarding terms, comes from skateboarding. To ollie, simply put your weight on your back foot as your come off the jump. As you reach the lip of the jump,jump hard from your back foot, using the tail (or nose if you're riding switch) of the board as a spring. Ollies are absolutely necessary for the halfpipe and quarter pipe, as if you don't, you may jump over the pipe, landing on the sides. It takes awhile to perfect the ollie for huge airs or even to balance as you lean back but as always, practice makes perfect.
To landing, simply angle your board so that it is parallel to the steepness of the ground you are landing on. It is helpful, however, to slightly lean back. Center your weight over the middle of your board and slightly bend your knees. As you hit the ground, crouch down to absorb the shock, gain your balance, and ride away. It's that easy! The main thing you should do, is not to panic, no matter what.
As that many snowboarding terms are derived form skateboarding, it is helpful to look at skateboarding tricks for different grabs.
Spins Firstly, here is the difference between frontside and backside spins. Frontside spins are when (if you ride regular, that is left foot in front), spinning clockwise. Backside spins would be when you spin counter-clockwise. For switch or goofy footed, just reverse. To do rotations while soaring in the air, all you have to do is swing your hips for a easy 180. Anything above 180 will probably require more technique however.
To make a 360 spin or higher, you must set up the jump just right. First, as your approach the jump, rotate your arms and hips against the direction you plan to spin. This may throw off your balance so be sure to have you feet ready to offset the shift in weight. Then, right as you approach the jump, throw your hips and arms around and then wrap them around you for as little centrifugal intertia as possible (or take a grab you feel comfortable with). Keep your head facing the direction you spin. Once you think you have spun enough, or perhaps when you start getting sick, stick your arms out to slow down and spot your landing. Stomp the ground, tuck in a bit to absorb shock and ride away.
Rails Before riding rails, especially if it is new to you, be sure to wear some protection. At the very least wear a helmet. To ride rails is very simple. The only hard part, balance, can only be learned through experience. It might help to have a flexy board, boots, and bindings. Also be sure to dull your edges so that it will not catch in the rail and cause you to fall. Remember to center your weight for a 50-50 or boardside. Other tricks like nosepress or smith will require you to lean hard without losing your weight and is recommended for advanced riders only. As that many snowboarding terms are derived form skateboarding, it is helpful to look at skateboarding tricks.
Advanced Flips are not as scary as you think. However; safety first, especially in aerial stunts. Make sure you are riding in soft snow conditions. Ideally, you should have protective gear. Most important is that you yourself know you are ready. If you feel hesitant, be wary. Most riders believe that if you can do a 540 you can do a flip, but it may differ among different people.
Firstly, be sure that you can do front and backflips confidantly on the tampoline or off a diving board. This is not necessary but it will help. Next, find a jump you feel comfortable on and can get a lot of air just in case. Now, visualize every aspect from the takeoff to the landing. As cliché as it sounds, it is very helpful.
As you jump, make sure to get as much air as you can. Then you should throw your body back for a backflip or dive foward for a front flip. Make sure not to do it too soon or you may hit your head on the lip of the jump. Now tuck in to spin as fast as possible. As you complete the flip, stretch out to slow down, spot your landing, and stomp the jump. If you did this successfully, perhaps its time to look for some sponsorships.
See also: Skiing, Boarder Cross, Skateboarding, Surfing, Freebord
- Transword Snowboarding - A popular magazine for Snowboarders http://www.transworldsnowboarding.com
- Snowboarding.com - Several interesting Howto's for Snowboarders http://www.snowboarding.com/howto/index.html
- Googul.net - A look at the intriguing History of Snowboarding http://www.googul.net/modules/zmagazine/article.php?articleid=53
Last updated: 02-02-2005 09:36:22
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55