Snowboard cross, or boardercross, is a snowboard event where a group of snowboarders start from a gate and race down a course against each other. The fastest one at the bottom takes the cake! 

However, the course is not your basic slalom course. It is like a roller coaster ride of jumps, drops, banked turns and even artificial structures that put the rider’s balance and board handling skills to the test. Often times the fastest rider is the one that finds the best lines to go for – and stay on two feet of course. 

The fastest one at the bottom takes the cake! 

How are snowboard cross events organized?

Snowboard cross contests are divided into different heats. Women have four heats of six riders with two semi-finals. Three of the fastest riders will go on to the next round. The faster your time is, the better your starting gate will be. 

First men’s heats have only five racers, and the three fastest riders will continue to the next round.  After the first qualification rounds men’s heats will also have six racers competing for the spot on the next round. 

The final will have the top six snowboarders whereas the small final will decide the 6th to 12th spots. 

Snowboard cross is like a roller coaster ride of jumps, drops, banked turns and even artificial structures that put the rider’s balance and board handling skills to the test.

How is snowboard cross judged?

As you might have already guessed, snowboard cross is based on time. There will be no additional points for style or aerial tricks seen in other snowboard events; slopestyle, big air or half pipe. 

However, snowboard cross does have other rules that prohibit riders from pushing, blocking, tackling or pulling other competitors off the course. If the judges see deliberate attempts of sabotaging other competitors, you can be disqualified from the competition. Athletes are also able to ask the judges to review the footage if they feel that someone had broken the rules. Unavoidable contact may be acceptable in certain circumstances, but that is up to the race jury to decide. 

Snowboard cross terminology

For a beginner, snowboarding terminology might sound like absolute gibberish. Here’s a few terms that might help you understand some snowboard jargon. 

Starting means pulling yourself out of the gate using your upper body. Timing and upper body strength are key if you want to have an upper hand at the beginning of the race. 

Rollers are man made bumps or ”waves” that the racers use to pump for speed. If you have enough speed you can even jump from one roller to the other. 

Wu-Tang is a steep banked turned similar to a half pipe. Snowboarders must jump out of the wu-tang back to the slope. 

Overtaking describes going past another racer. There are specific rules that apply when overtaking an opponent. You cannot push, hold or pull while trying to get into a better position. 

Drafting means closely following an opponent so that they take most of the wind resistance. 

The lip is the very tip of the kicker or jump that sends you flying. 

Knuckling means landing on the flat ground between the lip and the landing area. Knuckle landings are the bane of a freestyle snowboarder’s existence and may even be dangerous on bigger jumps. In snowboard cross a knuckle landing can severely slow you down. 

A stiffer snowboard setup will provide better energy transfer from your feet to the board. It will also make carving easier on hard-packed snow.

Boards and other equipment for snowboard cross

As with any snowboarding style that requires lots of speed, snowboard cross boards are usually stiffer and a little longer than their freestyle equivalents. A stiffer snowboard will be fast and responsive on hard packed snow. The stiffness also creates a more powerful carve so that the riders won’t slide out on tough corners. We also recommend stiffer bindings and boots for better energy transfer from your feet to the board. This will significantly increase mobility from edge to edge. 

The high-speed, collision prone nature of snowboard cross means that you should consider wearing a full-face mask similar to motocross helmets. If you really want to have a competitive edge against others, wear some skinnier clothes. 

Brief history of snowboard cross

Steven Rechtschaffner is widely considered to be the godfather of boardercross. His idea was to create an event for the snowboard community by snowboarders themselves. The first ever snowboard cross course was built in the legendary Whistler Blackcomb mountain where it quickly sprouted more boardercross slopes and events worldwide. 

Rechtschaffner wasn’t a fan of giving ski sanctioning body FIS the rights to use the trademarked ”boardercross” for their events. He believed that snowboarding events should be at the hands of snowboarders – not big skiing organizations. That is why FIS decided to refer to the sport as snowboard cross in their events. But that is not the only name that the sport has. ESPN first called the event ”snowboarder X” in the first-ever televised X-Games in 1997. 

Snowboard cross became an Olympic event in 2006 at the Torino Olympic games. It has since been a staple at every winter olympic games

Biggest snowboard cross events

The most prestigious snowboard cross events are FIS Snowboard Cross, X Games and Winter Olympics. For more information and event dates, check out their homepages. 

Did you learn anything new about snowboard cross?

Looking for a stiffer board for snowboard cross?

Subscribe to our newsletter