Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Snowboarding made its Olympic debut at Nagano in 1998.


Winter Olympics

TORINO, Italy (CNN) -- Snowboarding was born only 40 years ago, combining elements of surfing and skateboarding in an attempt to create a new and exciting winter sports activity.

Snowboarding grew in popularity throughout the 1970s -- displacing opposition from "traditional" ski enthusiasts -- and by 1983 the U.S. was hosting the first world championships.

How it is done

There are three events on the Olympic program, each open to men and women. In the half-pipe, perhaps the most recognizable form of the sport, boarders perform acrobatic manoeuvres on either side of a specially constructed semi-circular tube. Points are awarded for the difficulty of the manoeuvres and the style displayed in performing them.

The parallel giant slalom event is essentially Alpine downhill for snowboarders. Boarders slide down a course marked with gates at regular intervals, racing head to head in two heats. The first boarder to finish the course wins, but if each boarder wins one heat the boarder with the best overall time wins. This system continues until two boarders meet in the final. There are symmetrical courses for left-footed boarders and right-footed boarders, ensuring neither is at a disadvantage.

In the snowboard cross, four boarders race against each other over a downhill course featuring jumps and other obstacles. The first two athletes from each heat move on to the next round. This system continues until the medals have been decided.

What makes it hard

The half-pipe format borrows heavily from skateboarding, but skateboards are much smaller and lighter than snowboards. Boarders need to build up enough momentum on the pipe to be able to lift high enough above the rim to perform tricks difficult enough to score highly. Common tricks include twists, rotations and flips.

The slalom and cross events are basically all about speed, which means boarders must identify the best line down the course -- and then be able to stick to it. That in turn requires immense control, with sharp turns demanding great strain on the boarder's knees and ankles.

Boarders must also be able to defend their line as they make their way down the course, as contact is allowed during the race.

Decoding the Jargon

You may hear some unfamiliar terms in the expert commentary at the snowboarding during the Games. Here is what some of them mean:

Bevel: The angle of the edges of the snowboard.

Canadian bacon air: A half-pipe trick in which the rear hand reaches behind the straightened rear leg to grab the toe edge of the board between the bindings. This is not to be confused with the chicken salad air, in which the rear hand grabs the heel edge of the board with the front leg straightened.

Duckfoot: A stance in which the snowboarder's toes are pointed outwards. Riding with the right foot forward is known as the goofy-footed stance, as it is in skateboarding.

Fakie: When a boarder rides backwards, or towards his or her back foot.

Handplant: A half-pipe trick in which a hand is placed on the snow. Placing two hands on the snow is known as a ho-ho. Planting the rear hand while grabbing the board with the front hand is known as an Andrecht.

McEgg: A trick in which the boarder performs a mid-air flip (or 'aerial'), plants a hand on the half-pipe wall and rotates backwards 540 degrees, landing riding forwards. When performed in the opposite direction, it is known as a McTwist. A 900-degree McTwist is known as a Wet Cat.

Ollie: How to become airborne without jumping. The slider raises the front foot the lift the tip of the board, then kicks off the back foot to lift the tail. Performed tail-first, it is known as a Nollie.

Rolling down the windows: When a boarder loses balance and rotates his or her arms wildly in an attempt to recover.

Which means you can sound like an expert by saying: "These judges wouldn't know a Wet Cat if it scratched them in the face."

Did you know?

The first mass-produced snowboard was known as the "snurfer", a combination of snow and surfer.

Story Tools
Click Here to try 4 Free Trial Issues of Time! cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines