What Style of Snowboarder Are You?

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As millions of Winter Olympics watchers know, the sport of snowboarding has a language all its own. But for the snowboarders themselves, this language isn’t just a bunch of silly words to throw around when rooting for your country to win. These words have deep philosophical and technical underpinnings in the snowboarding community. For example, if you’re a snowboard racer, your everyday activities and practice are nothing like what a freestyle snowboarder does every day. These styles of snowboarding are as different as, say, swimming and diving, or Formula One racing and stock car racing. Even if it’s just the insiders who know the difference, the distinctions are huge.

Anyone who wants to thrive in the world of snowboarding has to pick a style early on, or else they’ll get left behind by the snowboarders who have focus. Next time you’re watching a snowboarding competition (or out on the slopes yourself), pay attention to the different types of events you see. They all fall in one of these categories.

1. Freestyle: Freestyle snowboarding goes back to the sport’s roots in the skateboarding culture—and in fact, many freestyle snowboarders also skateboard during the warmer months. Basically, freestyle snowboarding is like skateboarding without the wheels. Freestyle boarders spend most of their time on the half-pipe perfecting their tricks, which have names like flat-spins, ollies, and butters. In the Olympics, the freestylers are the ones on the half-pipe doing all those incredible flips and spins.

2. All-mountain snowboarding: All-mountain snowboarding is much closer to skiing than skateboard. Although an all-mountain boarder may get airborne sometimes, they generally don’t specialize in doing tricks. Instead, they go down the slopes, taking everything that the hill has to offer. Because slopes range tremendously in difficulty, all-mountain snowboarding is the most common style. It’s perfect for beginners who are just trying to find their snowboarding feet, but it can become extremely challenging at the professional level.

3. Racing: Snowboard racing is different from all-mountain snowboarding in that you usually know what you’re in for as far as the course is concerned. The challenge comes mostly in going faster than your opponents, which means being able to handle turns, out-maneuver your opponents, and pick up speed in the straightaways. Subcategories of this style include snowboard cross, which involves going head to head with your opponents on the course; and slalom, in which the boarder has to go between poles placed at intervals on the course.

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