Top 10 Rules of Snowboarding

snowboarding rules

Snowboarding is a winter sport enjoyed by many, with both formal and informal rules that participants need to consider. Even novices should consider mountain etiquette and the "unwritten" passing rule. Professional snowboarders have even more rules to factor in when competing, and this list will help explain the nuances that accompany them.


What are the most important rules of snowboarding?

  1. Slalom/Giant Slalom Rules
  2. Halfpipe Rules
  3. Snowboard Cross Rules
  4. Big Air Rules
  5. Slopestyle Rules
  6. Snowboard Regulations
  7. Equipment Rules
  8. Penalty Rules
  9. Disqualification Rules
  10. Olympic Qualification Rules

1. Slalom/Giant Slalom Rules

The parallel giant slalom has been a staple of the Winter Games since 1998, and the event consists of two snowboarders racing side-by-side down similar courses as they try to maneuver through the poles planted in the ground, referred to as "gates."

The Olympic slalom event has four parts, starting with a qualifier round where the snowboarder may take two runs. Afterward, their two times are combined, and the athletes with the top 16 cumulative times advance to a head-to-head elimination round. The elimination race consists of just one run, and whoever crosses the finish line first advances to the next round. The remaining racers then participate in another head-to-head elimination round in which the same format applies, narrowing the pool down to four remaining competitors. Once the final four have been determined, the medal final takes place. In the medal final, the first and second place racers from the final elimination round compete head-to-head to determine the gold and silver medal placements. The third and fourth snowboarders race for bronze and a fourth-place finish.

2. Halfpipe Rules

The halfpipe event features a U-shaped course built with snow, resembling a pipe cut in half. The walls are between 18 and 22 feet high depending on the competition, and the athletes ride back and forth, launching themselves into the air to perform scored tricks. A team of six judges determines each athlete's score between 1-100, and to ensure accuracy, the highest and lowest scores are dropped. The four remaining scores are averaged together for a single final score per run. The score is based on five factors: amplitude, difficulty, variety, execution, and progression. The Olympic competition consists of a qualification round and a final round comprising the 12 highest-scoring athletes from qualifiers.

3. Snowboard Cross Rules

Snowboard cross was added to the Olympics in the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. The event is also known as boardercross by fans, and the event consists of 4-6 snowboarders simultaneously racing down a predetermined course littered with obstacles. The track, usually narrow and featuring obstacles such as hills, jumps, and dips, tests high-level skills like speed, balance, and maneuverability. While the riders are not scored, rules exist to ensure fairness and safety. These include prohibiting intentional contact with other riders and intentionally preventing a competitor from turning by slowing down.

4. Big Air Rules

The IOC decided to include the big air event in the 2018 Winter Olympics, a freestyle event in which riders take off down a launch ramp and attempt three tricks. Snowboarders only get one attempt for this event. The athletes will gain speed down the ramp and launch once gaining enough momentum. The Pyeongchang Winter Games featured a ramp 49 meters tall with a maximum slope angle of 40 degrees. Once in the air, the rider will continue to perform their three selected tricks and be judged by a panel on difficulty, execution, amplitude, and landing to determine their score.

5. Slopestyle Rules

Since the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, slopestyle has grown into one of snowboarding's most popular disciplines. Slopestyle involves riders taking on a course that features obstacles such as rails, jumps, and other park features. The rider's goal is to finish the course while also performing a routine consisting of various tricks and grinds to score the most points out of 100. Points are scored and determined by originality, amplitude, difficulty, progression or flow, and the execution of the tricks. A team of six judges scores the competitors, and the highest and lowest scores are dropped to ensure accuracy.

6. Snowboard Characteristics

Different boards and regulations are used depending on the kind of competition, event, or type of rider you are. In freestyle events such as halfpipe, slopestyle, and big air, the boards are often short, wide, and flexible to allow for tricks, increase balance, and enable the snowboarder to ride in either direction. The nose and tail of the board are both curved upwards to facilitate take-off and landing in both directions. For parallel giant slalom, boards are generally longer than a standard snowboard, typically are stiff and narrow, and have a square back with a low nose. Snowboard cross utilizes a hybrid of these two styles. It maintains an extended profile while also being stiff to help with stability. As a general rule, the taller or heavier an athlete is, the longer their snowboard should be. For example, a snowboarder who is about 110 pounds should use a snowboard approximately 128-136 cm in length, while someone who is about 150 pounds should use a board between 154 and 162 cm long.

7. Equipment Rules

Snowboarding Equipment

The equipment used in snowboarding depends on the event snowboarders are participating in and individual preference. Equipment usually consists of bindings, boots, helmets, and goggles. Most freestyle snowboarders use soft boots and flexible bindings, which allow an extensive range of motion and offer foot and ankle support; alpine snowboard boots also provide support but have a hard plastic exterior. Their binding firmly locks the foot of the rider down in place. In snowboard cross, the type of bindings used depends on the boot. A racer who uses soft boots would use flexible bindings, while a racer with stiff boots would use bindings that secure them firmly to the board. All riders must wear a helmet, but the kind is up to them; goggles are optional and not mandated.

8. Penalty Rules

Most events held at the Winter Olympics have judges for scoring, and part of their job centers on ensuring that no penalties occur during competition. These penalties can vary depending on the event, but they all negatively impact the athlete's score in question. For example, in slalom and giant slalom, a rider may receive a penalty for contacting a gate during their run. In other events such as big air and slopestyle, a competitor can receive penalties for incorrectly landing their tricks and falling after contact with the ground post-landing. These penalties are factored into the athlete's score after their respective runs and will retroactively remove points from their final score. The exact number of points removed is up to the judge's discretion.

9. Disqualification Rules

Snowboarders may be disqualified from competitions for various actions depending on the kind of event. In halfpipe events, stopping for more than 10 seconds in the middle is deemed automatic disqualification, and the rider must stop immediately. In parallel giant slalom, you can be disqualified for actions such as false starts, disturbing an opponent during a run, passing through the wrong gate, failing to execute a turn on the outside of a gate, and not finishing the run with at least one foot fixed to the board. Snowboard cross is slightly more relaxed, but any intentional contact with the "race leader" or other riders in a way that purposefully blocks an opponent trying to pass can lead to disqualification after the race.

10. Olympic Qualification Rules

Some consider the Winter Olympic games to be the pinnacle of snowboarding competitions. The FIS holds competitions like the World Championships and World Cup in between Olympic years. Placement in these tournaments determines how many spots each country can have for their riders in the Olympics, called a "quota." Most teams have specific requirements or standards that need to be met to qualify for Olympic competition. Team USA determines and selects its members through objective criteria, namely through FIS ranking, international competitions, and placement in US competitions such as the Aspen Grand Prix and Visa Big Air events.

FAQ

What is snowboarding?

Snowboarding is a mountain sport similar to skiing, but with one large board strapped to the rider's feet instead of two narrow skis. Snowboarders carve down the mountain in an "S" type fashion, and their movements are focused more on toe and heel turns that carve horizontally across the hill and focus on graceful controlled turns. Snowboarding was initially developed in the United States between 1960-1970 and became a Winter Olympic sport in 1998.

What is passing etiquette in snowboarding?

Passing etiquette in snowboarding is a set of unwritten rules regarding how one can pass other snowboarders on the mountain in a respectful and safe fashion. On the mountain, regardless of snowboarding or skiing, the rule of thumb for passing is always that the person below has the right-of-way. The person below typically can't see other snowboarders approaching from behind them when attempting to pass, so it is your responsibility to make sure you will not hit the person in front of you if you would like to pass them. Make sure you take a broad approach when passing and give whoever you pass ample room to ensure no one is injured in a potential crash.

What are the different types of snowboarding disciplines?

When it comes to different disciplines, snowboarding is at no shortage; the Olympics recognizes six separate snowboarding disciplines. The first two disciplines recognized were men's and women's snowboarding giant slalom and halfpipe competitions at the Nagano Games in 1998, and snowboard cross was added to the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. Following the continued rise of popularity and success of snowboarding at the Olympics, slopestyle, parallel slalom, and big air events were also added to the 2010, 2014, and 2018 Winter Games, respectively.