Snowboarding Information

Insider Info

dotHow would you like to strap a three-by-one foot fiberglass plank to your feet and then hurtle down a mountain? Sound like fun? Thousands of snowboarders would agree.

With about 600 ski areas in North America, snowboarders have plenty of places to defy gravity. You might see beginners starting out on tobogganing hills. This cross between skiing, surfing, and skateboarding is catching on.

dotSnowboarding got a big boost by being a medal sport for the first time at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. In 2006, when Torino, Italy hosted, the sport got even more attention in North America.

dotThe sport has grown incredibly fast in its short history. It was in the late 1970s when a small group began experimenting with a single-board concept. The group included Chuck Barfoot, Tom Sims, and Jake Burton. Burton is now the largest snowboard manufacturer in the world.

dotThe inspiration for the sport was a sledding toy called a snurfer. It was shaped like a small waterski with a rope tied to the front. The rider stood near the back on a rough surface. Burton raced snurfers, and began to easily win when he put a foot strap on his board.

dotOf the hundreds of thousands of people who flock to North American ski hills every winter, about 30 percent are snowboarders. After initial resistance, ski areas are now accepting snowboarders with open arms. In 1985, only seven percent of ski areas allowed snowboards. Today, about 98 percent allow snowboards.

"I think, as resort operators, we've taken the attitude it doesn't really matter what's strapped to your feet," says Rob Linde with the National Ski Areas Association. "It's getting you up the hill that matters."

dotSnowboarding continues to grow in popularity every year. In the past, people learned to ski before they learned to snowboard. No more. It's more and more common to see kids go straight into snowboarding. "We've had phenomenal growth, as high as 18 to 20 percent [per year]," Linde says.

dotIn the 1997-1998 season, 610,000 snowboards were sold in North America, according to the International Snowboard Federation. This was up from 490,000 the year before.

dotMost ski areas now have half pipes. They resemble the bottom half of a pipe, hence the name. Snowboarders -- as well as skiers -- use the lip of the half pipe to "catch big air." At competitions, points are awarded for the level of difficulty, smoothness, and height of the techniques.

Tricia Byrnes is a champion snowboarder with numerous World Cup wins to her name. She sees her sport changing from year to year.

"It's always changing," Byrnes says. "Everyone's always trying to push the envelope and get more technical, but still keep it big."

dotSnowboarders also compete in boardercross events, where the aim is to finish first. (Boardercross is when there are four or five riders in a course filled with gap jumps and bank turns.)

The combination of speed with the possibility of wiping out draws a lot of attention at competitions. "They're getting the big crowds because, I think, of the carnage factor, which is kind of sad," Byrnes says, laughing.

Says Juliann Fritz with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association: "Snowboarding is one of our more popular sports with a general audience, because it's easy to pick up and it's exciting to watch on TV."

dotMost snowboarders are male, though more females are joining the sport every year. Females make up 30 percent of snowboarders, according to a 1998-1999 national demographic study by the National Ski Areas Association.

dotIt's not easy making a living snowboarding. A few top athletes are team riders, traveling from event to event. Sponsors give them equipment and a salary. Most competitive snowboarders, however, only get equipment and perhaps some money for travel and accommodations from sponsors.

The number of professional snowboarders -- team riders -- will likely increase as the sport matures. "This is only a 20-year-old sport, and as it grows there's no question there are more and more team riders," says Peter Lane. He is the manager of a snowboard shop. His business sponsors several snowboarders.

Getting Started

dotSnowboarding isn't a cheap sport. You can expect to spend from $400 to $1,200 for the basic equipment. The essential items are a board, bindings, and boots. Of course, you'll also need warm clothing.

Snowboarders also have to pay for lift passes at resorts. Most resorts charge $30 to $60 for a full-day pass. Full-season passes can be a good bargain if you go often.

dotTaking lessons using rented equipment is a good way to start. Most resorts rent equipment and many offer lessons for beginners.

dotOne appeal of the sport is the feeling of progression as you learn new techniques and tricks. A good start is getting tips from an expert. "It's kind of a good sport because you can progress really quickly at it," says snowboarder Lyndon Cormack. "Take a lesson -- that's the way that works best."

dotSnowboarding, just like skiing, requires a good level of fitness. A strong back and legs, along with a good sense of balance, are important. People as young as six and as old as 70 participate.

Injuries are about as common as with skiing, experts say. A snowboarder is much less likely to injure their knees than a skier. However, they're more likely to injure their ankles, feet, wrists, and hands, according to a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

dotThe Internet is a great place to find out more about snowboarding. It's easy to find tips on buying equipment, snowboarding techniques, and much more. Contact your area ski club or resort to find out about equipment rentals and lessons. Soon, you'll be able to get on-board and enjoy the ride!


United States of America Snowboard Association (USASA)
P.O. Box 3927
Truckee , CA   96160


Backcountry Snowboarding,
by  Christopher Van Tilburg
Extreme Snowboarding,
by  Pat Ryan
The Good Skiing and Snowboarding Guide 2000,
edited by Peter Hardy and Felice Eyston
The Illustrated Guide to Snowboarding,
by  Kevin Ryan
Snowboarding: A Complete Guide for Beginners,
by  George Sullivan


Frequently Asked Questions About Snowboarding
Everything you ever wanted to know about snowboarding

National Ski Council Federation
Links to ski and snowboard clubs across the U.S.

Snowboarding Online
News, features, profiles, snow reports, and more
Board reviews, gallery of photos, boarding tips, and information on resorts and events
Extensive resort guide, photo gallery, chat room, and more