Snowboard cross (often called bordercross) is a type of snowboard race in which several competitors (usually four) barrel down a custom-made course over various types of terrain and obstacles in a bid to be the first across the finish line. Think of motocross on snow. The event has been growing quickly in popularity with both spectators and snowboarders and every year more hills are building courses and more riders are signing up for snowboard cross races.
If you're looking for information on how to prepare for your first snowboard cross, how to train for your next one, or for off-season training activities, then this article is for you. We’ll discuss how to know if you’re ready to enter a snowboard cross race, provide you with snowboard cross equipment recommendations, and share a few ideas for what you can do both on and off the hill to improve your performance.
Am I Ready for Snowboard Cross?
Snowboard cross requires competitors to ride and catch air in close proximity at high speeds on challenging terrain. This creates a lot of potential for high-speed collisions and wipeouts. This sport is recommended for advanced riders only.
You should only consider competing in snowboard cross if you are able to:
- Comfortably ride very difficult (black diamond) terrain
- Sustain long carves on both your heel- and toe-edges at high speeds
- Straight-air 10-15 foot jumps at high speeds
- Snowboard on medium-sized moguls comfortably at a moderate speed
These are not hard-and-fast rules. They're general guidelines for determining whether your skill level is high enough for you to compete in snowboard cross without increasing the already-significant risk of crashes. The best way to determine your readiness to race, however, is to have a certified snowboard instructor or coach evaluate your ability in person.
What Gear Do I Need?
High-speed wipeouts are common in snowboard cross so all riders are required to wear snow sport certified helmets. The certification for snow helmets in North American is called ASTM F2040. Europe uses a different standard called CE EN1077. These certifications mean that the helmet has been made to either the safety standards set by the ASTM (formerly called the American Society for Testing and Materials) or the European Committee for Standardization. Since safety is a major selling point, a helmet’s certification should be clearly marked either on the helmet or the documentation that comes with it. If a helmet is not clearly certified, you should not buy it.
Beyond that, specialized snowboard cross gear is optional. However, snowboard cross is different from any other style of snowboarding so, to stay safe and maximize performance, specialized snowboard cross equipment is strongly recommended:
- Tighter-than-normal outerwear to reduce drag
- Armor to protect your body if (when) you wipe out
- A snowboard cross snowboard (stiffer and has a different sidecut than an all-mountain snowboard)
- Snowboard cross bindings (stiffer than normal all-mountain soft bindings)
- Snowboard cross boots (stiffer than normal all-mountain soft boots)
Snowboard Cross Equipment Tips:
- Although they're declining in numbers, some people like to do snowboard cross on an alpine (racing) setup. If you already have this gear you may want to try using it before investing in a new snowboard cross setup.
- If you don't have an alpine setup and aren't prepared to buy a whole new snowboarding setup for snowboard cross, then the next best thing is a good all-mountain setup. The stiffer the boots, bindings, and board, the better.
How Do I Train for Snowboard Cross On the Hill?
Snowboard cross forces snowboarders to ride unnaturally close to each other on terrain that is not found in normal riding conditions such as berms (sharp corners in the course that have inclined walls built around them them so that racers can take them faster) and whoops (series of small jumps in the course that are taken in rapid succession), so racers should work on skills that will help them deal with these situations. To improve their snowboard cross abilities athletes should:
- Train with an experienced instructor. This is by far the fastest, safest, and most effective way to improve.
- Train on a snowboard cross practice course. Much of the terrain ridden in snowboard cross is almost impossible to find anywhere else. More and more hills are building snowboard cross practice courses. Find the hill nearest you with a practice course and train on it.
- Train with others. Many riders who excel in snowboard cross time trials but finish poorly when they race with other riders. Learning to race in a crowd is important.
- Practice pre-ollieing gaps and tabletops. In a race, it's best to get as little air as possible and land high on the transition to maximize speed. Racers do this by pre-ollieing. Pre-ollieing is ollieing before the peak of the jump so that you cruise in a low-arc over the table or gap and land high on the transition. Practice this obsessively. It's crucial to a fast run and takes a lot of practice to master.
- Pre-ollie moguls in succession. This is the same as pre-ollieing jumps but on a smaller scale. Do it over several sets of moguls in rapid succession to simulate a series of whoops in snowboard cross.
- Practice carving at high speeds. This helps to maintain speed in the curves and berms.
- Practice quick edge changes. Snowboarding near other racers forces riders to change direction faster than is necessary in everyday riding. Practicing quick edge changes improves the rider's ability to react and avoid collisions.
How Do I Train for Snowboard Cross Off the Hill?
Success at snowboard cross depends a lot on physical ability. Even the most skilled rider can't be competitive if they aren't able to absorb whoops with their legs or keep it together when they land flat. These exercises help to strengthen the arms and back, which competitors use to push out of the gate (the most important part of a snowboard cross race) and the legs and core, which enable racers to better absorb landings and stay in control at high speeds.
Arm and Back Exercises