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Snowboard Disciplines

Determining your riding style


Snowboarder doing a jump
Chris Tobin / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Riding a snowboard makes you a snowboarder. But did you know there are several different disciplines within the sport of snowboarding? A day in the life of a freestyle snowboarder is different from a day in the life of an all-mountain rider. A day in the life of a snowboard racer differs drastically from both a freestyle rider and an all-mountain rider. Read on to learn about the different types of snowboarding and how your riding style can affect equipment choices, favored resorts and more.

Freestyle Snowboarding

Freestyle snowboarding is the discipline most closely associated with snowboarding's skateboard roots. Freestyle riders spend the majority of their time in terrain parks and the halfpipe, performing aerial tricks, sliding and jibbing handrails and other man-made obstacles, and executing flat-ground tricks like butters, flat-spins, and ollie/nollie variations. Freestyle riders also frequently take to the streets, using urban features like ledges and staircases to showcase their skills.

All-Mountain Snowboarding

All-Mountain snowboarders make up arguably the largest group within the sport. An all-mountain rider is one who dabbles in each discipline while focusing mostly on riding everything the mountain has to offer. A typical day for an all-mountain rider may involve riding groomed trails, moguls, gladed (tree) terrain, ungroomed terrain, the terrain park or halfpipe, and even a run or two through a racecourse. Oftentimes an all-mountain rider will decide where to ride based solely on the day's conditions - a powder day sees them charging through ungroomed terrain and glades, whereas a soft spring day has them perfecting freestyle moves in the park. If you don't know exactly which discipline you enjoy most, you're likely an all-mountain rider.

Snowboard Racing

Simply put, snowboard racing involves competing against another snowboarder or group of snowboarders in a race against the clock. Different disciplines exist within the subset of snowboard racing, including gate racing (slalom, giant-slalom, super giant-slalom) and snowboard-cross, otherwise known as Boarder-X.

Racing gates on a snowboard is closely related to ski racing, with the biggest difference being the shape of the gates. Whereas ski racing gates consist of two vertical poles with a square flag connecting the two poles at the top, snowboard gates are shaped like a right triangle. This shape allows riders upper bodies to clear the gate on a toe-side turn, which often sees the riders laid out nearly horizontally across the snow. The different races - slalom, giant-slalom, super giant-slalom - equate to different distances between the gates.

Snowboard-cross, or Boarder-X races combine aspects of both gate racing and freestyle riding. Groups of four or five riders at once are sent down the course, which resembles a motorcross course with banked turns and large table-top jumps. With multiple riders on course at once, this event often leads to spectacular crashes. The event has been dubbed "NASCAR on Snow" by many participants.

Equipment Choices

The different disciplines use different types of equipment. Freestyle riders often use shorter, softer-flexing boards that allow them to flip and spin easily, while snowboard racers generally use long boards and hard boots that resemble ski boots. All-mountain riders gravitate towards boards that are slightly longer and stiffer than those used by freestylers, but stick with soft boots.

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