Snowboarding offers several forms of competition. First developed in the United States in the 1960s, the sport combines elements of skiing, surfing, and skateboarding. Snowboarding’s popularity caught on in the 1970s and 1980s; in 1985, the first World Cup for the sport was held in Zurs, Austria. The International Snowboard Association was founded in 1994, and snowboarding became an Olympic sport in 1998. Today, most of the ski areas in North America and Europe allow snowboarding, and more than 3.5 million people around the world have taken up the sport.
Snowboard competitions consist of alpine events (slalom, parallel slalom, giant slalom, parallel giant slalom), freestyle events (halfpipe, slopestyle, and big air), and snowboard cross.
In the slalom races, riders race downhill through gates with tight turns that require significant technical skill. In giant slalom races, gates are set farther apart on longer courses, and riders gain more speed on these courses.
In halfpipe competitions, competitors perform tricks in the air while going from side to side on a semicircular ditch or ramp. They receive scores from judges for their performances.
In slopestyle competitions, competitors perform tricks while moving around, over, across, or down terrain features, again receiving scores from judges for doing so.
In snowboard cross, four to six riders race on a downhill course with jumps, berms, and other obstacles, with typically the first two riders advancing to the next round. The overall winner is the rider who finishes first in the final round.
Following are descriptions of courses for competitions in these events: slalom, giant slalom, parallel events, halfpipe, snowboard cross, and slopestyle.
Slalom courses include a series of turns that allow competitors to combine maximum speed with precise turns. The courses are between 80 and 180 meters long. They must be at least 30 meters wide if two runs are set on the same slope and at least 20 meters wide if the second run is set on the first track. The finish must be at least 8 meters wide. The minimum time requirement for a course is 50 seconds for two runs combined.
Slalom courses allow for fluent runs with changes of direction with very different radii. Gates are set so that some full turns are required, interspersed with traverses. Slalom gates alternate red and blue. Each gate has between 6 and 15 meters from turning pole to turning pole. Snowboarders negotiate at least 35 gates on the course, including at least two double-gate combinations (hairpins) and at least two triple- or quadruple-gate combinations (flushes).
Giant slalom courses present a variety of long, medium, and short turns. The courses are between 200 and 400 meters long and at least 30 meters wide, with the finish width at least 10 meters wide. Riders must ride at least 50 seconds for two runs combined.
Gates alternate red and blue except for double gates, which are the same color. The nearest poles of two successive gates must be at least 10 meters. Riders must navigate at least 20 gates over undulating and hilly terrain that is topped by compact, hard snow. Padding, nets, or other safety measures are put in place where riders might encounter danger.
In parallel events-parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom-two competitors ride simultaneously side by side down two courses, which are configured and prepared to be as identical as possible, posing the same challenges for each competitor. The left course (looking from the top) is set with red gate poles and flags, and the right course is set with blue poles and flags. Courses are set to have a variety of turns and to cause changes in rhythm.
Parallel slalom courses are between 80 and 120 meters long, with an average steepness of 17 to 22 degrees and a distance between gates of 11 to 13 meters. These courses typically have 25 to 32 gates, with the first gate located 8 to 10 meters from the start. The distance between the two parallel slalom courses, from turning pole to turning pole, is between 5 and 8 meters.
Parallel giant slalom courses are 120 to 200 meters long, with a distance between gates of 20 to 25 meters. The number of turns on a parallel giant slalom course is somewhere between 11 and 15 percent of the vertical drop in meters on the course. The first gate is 8 to 10 meters from the start, and the distance between the two parallel giant slalom courses, from turning pole to turning pole, is between 7 and 12 meters.
Halfpipe courses are channels constructed in snow. Courses are as hard and even as possible, and the tops of each wall are clearly marked with color. The length of a halfpipe course is 100 to 120 meters, and its width is from 14 to 16 meters, with a wall height of 3.5 to 4.5 meters.
Snowboard cross courses include banked turns, jumps, berms, drops, and steep and flat sections that challenge riders’ ability to stay in control. The courses measure between 120 and 300 meters in vertical drop, with the average slope incline between 15 and 18 degrees. The slope should be at least 30 meters wide in most cases, although for short sections of the course it can drop to as low as 10 meters wide. The finish must be at least 15 meters wide, and courses should not include gradients that exceed more than 25 degrees for lengths of 45 meters or more.
Gates are placed along the course so competitors can distinguish them clearly and quickly at high speeds.
Slopestyle courses are a minimum of 30 meters wide and include 150 to 200 meters of vertical drop. The slopes should be between 10 and 15 degrees and contain a variety of hits, with two or more lines that competitors may choose to perform. Each course includes at least two jumps and two other features. Courses are designed to be technically challenging while allowing riders to set up for the next feature.
In U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association competitions, riders compete in these divisions:
-Menehune: 12 years and younger
-Junior 3: 13 and 14 years old
-Junior 2: 15 and 16 years old
-Junior 1: 17 and 18 years old
-Seniors: 19 to 24 years old
-Masters: 25 to 34 years old
-Legends: 35 to 49 years old
-Methuselah: 50 years and older
Riders’ bibs, and how they are attached, cannot be altered in any way. Safety leashes are optional, unless required by the organizer or the ski area. Snowboards with a gliding surface of up to 135 centimeters must have a minimum width of 14 centimeters; boards with a gliding surface greater than 135 centimeters must have a minimum width of 16 centimeters. Bindings must be fixed diagonally on the long axis of the board, and boots cannot overlap each other. Competitors are not allowed to use any kind of device that can support their balance or reduce or accelerate their speed.
The rules for this chapter are derived from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. Each course has its own set of rules.
The slalom start takes place at irregular intervals; a competitor does not have to finish the course before the next competitor begins. The starter says, "Ready," and then, a few seconds later, gives the signal to "Go!" The competitor has 10 seconds to start after this signal.
A slalom is decided by two runs, each run on a different course. All riders go on one course, and then all move over to the second course. The competition committee can reduce the number of competitors in the second run to half, provided that such notice was given before the race started.
In the slalom, as with all snowboarding events, helmets are required for all competitors.
Competitors usually start at 60-second intervals (sometimes shorter or longer intervals are used). The starter gives the competitor a 10-second warning and then at 5 seconds counts, "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!"
A giant slalom is decided by two runs; typically these runs are made on the same day. The second run can be held on the same course, but the gates must be reset.
In parallel events, competitors are allowed to inspect the course, but they cannot ride down the prepared course or through the gates. Instead, they can slide down the sides of the course.
Competitors start side by side in two separate start gates that open simultaneously. Any start system can be used as long as it guarantees a simultaneous start. Starts take place at irregular intervals; riders need not have crossed the finish line before the next set of competitors begins.
A competitor is disqualified if he manipulates the starting gate or tries to pass the starting gate before the start signal has been given. Competitors are also disqualified if they change from one course to another; disturb or interfere with the opponent, whether voluntarily or not; or incorrectly pass a gate. Competitors who are disqualified in the first run start the second run with the maximum penalty time of 5 percent; if they are disqualified in the second run, they are eliminated from the competition.
The finish lines for each competitor are symmetrical and are each at least 8 meters wide.
Each race between two competitors consists of two runs, with each competitor going once on each course.
The starter gives a "Ready" command to a competitor and then says, "Go." The competitor can leave anytime after the command. Once a competitor starts, she is not allowed to restart.
Competitions can be held in best of two runs, in best of three runs, and in modified formats. In the best of two runs, competitors get two runs in the halfpipe, going in the same order as they went in the first run. Judges score each run, and the best score of the two runs is the only score that counts toward the final placing. The same approach works for the best of three runs.Three to six judges are used at halfpipe events, and they evaluate the runs on the following criteria:
-Standard airs: These include tricks and airs that are less than 360 degrees. Tricks that are performed well increase scores for execution. Judges emphasize variety, difficulty, and execution of tricks.
-Rotations: These are maneuvers that include a rotation of 360 degrees or more. Judges look for smooth, precise, under-control rotating and take into account the variety, difficulty, and execution of the tricks.
-Amplitude: This measures the height of maneuvers. The amplitude score is derived from the sum of all hits, divided by the number of hits taken. The value of each hit is equal to the number of feet between the pipe’s lip (top) and the rider’s center of mass.
-Overall impression: This includes how a rider designs his run to show a variety of tricks that are well executed and difficult. If two competitors are tied, the rider with the highest score from the other run wins. If both runs are tied, then the rider with the highest combined overall impression score wins.
This is an excerpt from The Sports Rules Book 3E.