Snowboarders ride down snow-covered slopes on boards that look like small surfboards. The boards attach to the snowboarders’ feet with special boots. Unlike skiers, who use poles to help with balance and turns, snowboarders use only their bodies. Many of the jumps and tricks they do are based on skateboarding tricks.
The sport of snowboarding started in the 1970s. The snurfer was an early type of snowboard that had a rope to help with steering. Its name combined the words snow and surfer. Designers kept improving their snowboard designs and the sport grew rapidly. In 1981, the first official snowboarding event was held in Colorado.
Snowboarders first competed in the Olympics at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. The events were the halfpipe and individual giant slalom. The parallel giant slalom replaced the individual giant slalom at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, Utah. The snowboard cross was added at the 2006 games in Torino, Italy.
The halfpipe event is performed inside a trench shaped like a letter U. The sides of the trench are about 3 meters (11 ft.) high. The length can be up to 122 meters (400 ft.) and the width 15 meters (50 ft.). Snowboarders speed down one side of the U and up the other side. When they get to the top they perform a trick. They are judged on their basic moves, spins, and flips, as well as their technique, landings, and how high they get.
The giant slalom is similar to the slalom races in alpine skiing. The snowboarders must race as fast as they can around gates as they speed downhill. Two racers compete head-to-head trying not to miss any gates. They each get two tries, and then the top sixteen racers are ranked according to their times. The winners move on to the next round, and those winners race in the semifinal round. The two winners of the semifinals race for the gold and silver medals, and the two losers race for the bronze medal.In the snowboard cross, a group of four racers starts down an obstacle-filled course. Along the way, the terrain, or land features, change, and the racers have to adjust. The fastest two from each group move on to the next round until there’s a winner.
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