It's safe to say most snowboarders, at some point, have looked upon the lives of professional snowboarders with envy. The pros get hooked up with the latest clothing and gear for free, all while traveling around to some of the world's most exotic locales to take part in competitions and win big money. How exactly does one get involved in competitive snowboarding? Read on to find out!
Types of Competitive Snowboarding
Snowboard competitions are held in a few different disciplines, from racing to freestyle. Those disciplines are further broken up - race competitions include traditional gate racing as well as the relatively new sport of Snowboard Cross, which consists of five riders on course at once, racing around banked turns and over rollers and jumps. Freestyle competitions are generally divided up between the halfpipe and slopestyle, which involves riding rails and boxes as well as jumps.
Where to Start
No matter which discipline you choose to compete in, remember that every pro snowboarder, from Shaun White to Seth Wescott, started at the local level. Most resorts hold amateur competitions during the winter, with prize purses ranging from a few bucks all the way up to several thousand dollars. These local events are a great way to get a feel for competing, as well as an excellent venue for picking up small sponsorships from local shops and companies.
Those that are looking to become competitive at a higher level often enroll in competitive programs; several different types are described below.
Check out your local ski and snowboard club. Clubs offer discounts on lift tickets, and many run frequent bus trips to the mountains. They're also a great way to meet like-minded riders and push your riding to the next level.
Season Long Programs
Most resorts offer season-long competition programs that offer coaching every weekend. Along with the intensive training they offer, many of these programs also encourage competing in local competitions several times a month. More competition-specific than a season-long snowboard school program, these programs are a good way to get started in competitive snowboarding.
Those interested in a higher level of competition and training often choose to attend a mountain school. Generally catering to riders of high school age, these schools are the prep schools of the snowboarding world, and can be found at most major resorts. Students split each day between on-snow time and schoolwork, with a focus on the discipline needed to compete and succeed at the highest levels of the sport. Although they aren't cheap, the benefits afforded by attending a mountain academy are often the difference between a great snowboarder and a professional snowboarder.