Snowboarding is a boardsport on snow similar to skiing, but inspired by surfing and skateboarding. Snowboarding is an increasingly popular winter sport throughout the world.
A snowboarder's equipment consists of a snowboard, snowboarding boots, bindings to attach their boots to the board, as well as snowboarding-specific winter clothing.
Snowboarding became a Winter Olympic Games sport in 1998.
Other events that focus on snowboarding are the annual European and U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships and the Winter X-Games. These events are hosted by various winter resorts in Europe, United States, and Canada.
The snowboard evolved from early pioneering work by people such as Sherman Poppen (who, in 1965, invented the "Snurfer" in his North Muskegon, Michigan home), Chuck Barfoot, Dimitri Mitrovitch, Tom Sims, and Jake Burton Carpenter.
Jake is the founder of Burton Snowboards, one of the largest, and most well-established snowboard companies in the world. In the early 1980s, snowboard companies such as Sims, Winterstick, and Avalanche began emerging across the country.
It was not until the mid-1980s that snowboarding exploded into the mainstream, when the first snowboard magazine, Absolutely Radical, hit the racks; it was soon renamed International Snowboard Magazine.
- For more on the history of snowboarding, see this Snowboard History Timeline.
Snowboarder in France mastering mixed style. There are four primary sub-disciplines or sub-styles within snowboarding with each favoring a slightly different snowboard design.
The bulk of a snowboard, the core is the interior of the snowboard. It is typically comprised of a solid material, normally either wood, foam, or some composite plastic. The properties of the core directly affect important characteristics of the board, such as flexibility and weight.
This is the bottom of the board which is made of a graphitic material that is saturated with a wax that creates a very quick smooth, hydrophobic surface. Because the base of the board comprises the bulk of the board's interaction with the snow, it is important that it be as slippery with respect to the snow as possible.
For this reason, different base waxes are available for different snow conditions. If the board is damaged, a new base pattern can be stone-ground into the board. If the base becomes significantly damaged, the board may become sluggish, or if the damage is deep enough, it may even weaken the core.
A strip of metal, tuned normally to just less than 90-degrees, that runs the length of either side of the board. This sharp edge is necessary to be able to produce enough friction to ride on ice, and the radius of the edge directly affects the radius of carving turns, and in turn the responsiveness of the board.
Kinking, rusting, or general dulling of the edge will significantly hinder the ability for the edge to grip the snow, so it is important that this feature is maintained.
However, many riders who spend a fair amount of their time jibbing park rails, and especially handrails, will actually use a detuning stone or another method to intentionally dull their edges, either entirely or only in certain areas. This helps to avoid "catching" on any tiny burrs or other obstructions that may exist or be formed on rails, boxes, and other types of jibs.
Catching on a rail can, more than likely, result in a potentially serious crash, particularly should it occur on a handrail or more advanced rail set-up. In addition, it's relatively common for freestyle riders to "detune" the edges around the board's contact points. This practice can help to reduce the chances of the rider catching an edge in a choppy or rutted-out jump landing or similar situation.
It is important to keep in mind that drastic edge detuning can be near-impossible to fully reverse and will significantly impede board control & the ability to hold an edge in harder-packed snow. One area where this can be quite detrimental is in a half-pipe, where well-sharpened edges are often crucially important for cutting through the hard, sometimes icy walls.
Two layers or more of fiberglass that add torsional snap and response as well as protect the wood core from damage. Often, it may be strengthened with carbon fiber or Kevlar stringers.
- For a more detailed description, see Board Construction
The bindings that attach the snowboard to the rider's feet are securely fastened to the board with bolts that screw into its threaded metal inserts. Most snowboard manufacturers use a mounting system consisting of four bolts arranged in a square or rectangular pattern. Some companies take other approaches. The most notable example is Burton, which has long employed its signature three-bolt system and, more recently, has introduced a two-bolt system on its Un-Inc series of snowboards.
There are two main types of snowboard bindings: conventional and step-in.
Conventional, or strap-in, bindings are the most common type and are preferred by most advanced riders. Strap-ins, as the name suggests, lock the rider's feet into place with straps the tighten down over the boots. Typically, there are two straps, a heelstrap and a toestrap, however, some other variations do exist. Strap-in bindings usually have a high-back made of plastic or other material which rests against the rider's ankle & calf for enhanced leverage and responsiveness.
Step in binging systems allow for added convenience, quickly locking onto some sort of metal connector on the bottom of the rider's boot when he/she steps into the binding and releasing when a lever is lifted. Step-ins may or may not have high-backs, but most do not. They are quite popular amongst beginning snowboarders for their convenience. Because they are generally less responsive and tend not to hold the foot in place as securely, step-ins are rather unpopular with experienced riders.
Snowboard instruction is available at almost every ski resort from certified snowboard instructors. Professional instruction is a good way to learn proper technique, safety policies, mountain etiquette and resort rules. Beginning snowboarders, whether young or old, should consider taking a series of lessons. It will not only get you on the slopes more quickly, but will help you feel more confident in sharing that mountain with the other members of the snowboarding/ski community.
Snowboard lessons, as with ski lessons, can either be group or private lessons. Group lessons are often cheaper, but often have a high student-teacher ratio, resulting in less individual attention.
Private lessons can be taught one-on-one or between a small group. Private lessons are often far more expensive than group, as it is the snowboarding analogue of being privately tutored.
The rapport developed between an instructor and a student who returns for multiple lessons is the real benefit derived from private lessons; one is taught better by a teacher who knows them, and a student is more likely to heed the advice of someone they trust.
Typically, beginner snowboard lessons focus on very basic, common snowboarding skills. The first lesson often begins with basic safety policies, stretching, and learning to fall, then progresses to snowboarding with one foot on the board (particularly skating and J-turns). Then students learn how to turn and stop with both feet in. Other important beginner skills to learn are the falling leaf technique, side-slipping, and lift procedures.
More advanced techniques that are taught in later lessons are linking turns, edge control, weight distribution, edge pressure, and eventually carving. As students progress in ability they can seek out specialized instruction in areas such as riding steeper slopes and through a wider variety of snow conditions, terrain park skills (jumps, rails, and pipes), mogul technique, off-piste riding, powder riding, and racing.
The exact lesson format will be different at each resort but you can expect to learn the following skills:
- Skating or Scooting
- Straight Running
- Standing up
- Side Slipping
- Falling Leaf
- Linked Turns
- Leg Turning
- Flat Basing
- Freestyle Snowboarding
- Frontside and Backside
- For more snowboarding terms, see Snowboard Glossary
Although many snowboarders do not wear any protective gear, helmets and some other devices are gaining in popularity. Wearing protective gear is highly recommended and is very serious because people have died from snowboarding accidents. More on boarding safety
Videos and movies
Snowboard videos have become a huge part of the sport. Each season, many different snowboard films are released, usually in September. Production companies work all year developing these videos.
Videos have evolved to become the backbone of the sport. Many companies rely heavily on their professional riders to help in promoting their product in these videos. These videos began as a way to show what can be done on a snowboard and have now become a major marketing tool in the industry. One example would be The White Album, a snowboarding film from Shaun White, that includes cameos by Tony Hawk and was sponsored by PlayStation, Mountain Dew and Burton Snowboards, just to name a few.
Snowboarding has also been the focus of numerous Hollywood feature films, quite notably the 2001 movie Out Cold, which included appearances by several renowned professional snowboarders as stunt performers, actual characters, or both. Out Cold is one of few major motion pictures to show snowboarding rather realistically and to exhibit a real understanding of the sport, as well as the culture that surrounds it.
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