What Is Snowboard Cross? [With Video Examples]

by Fraser

What is snowboard cross?

Imagine a Mario Kart course… but covered in snow.

Take away the go-karts and banana peels, then hand the players a snowboard… You’ve just created an Olympic event!

Snowboard cross is a winter sport involving 4-6 snowboarders racing down a uniquely designed course. Riders start at the gate before tackling banked turns, large bumps, and huge jumps. The winner is simply whoever crosses the finish line first!

Let’s take a closer look at this crazy sport…

what is snowboard cross?

What Is Snowboard Cross/Boardercross?

Boardercross, also known as snowboard cross or SBX, is a snowboarding discipline in which multiple riders compete on a course filled with jumps, banked turns, rollers, and other obstacles.

It is a high-speed and action-packed event that combines elements of snowboarding, racing, and freestyle.

But what are the rules?

The Rules Of Snowboard Cross

The rules of snowboard cross are simple.

Four to six riders go down a unique course as fast as possible. 

The only goal is to be the first one across the finish line.

There are no extra points for fancy grabs and spins… something Lindsey Jacobellis should have remembered in the 2006 games!

While there are always judges present, they don’t necessarily choose the winners. However, they’re not just there to look pretty.

While incidental contact on snow and even in midair is expected, the judges step in if any participants look like they’re getting frisky on purpose!

Here’s a summary of the main boardercross rules:

  1. Start: Riders begin simultaneously from a starting gate. The start may be staggered or feature a mass start, depending on the competition.

  2. Racing Line: Riders must stay within the designated lines. Straying too far or cutting corners excessively can lead to penalties or disqualification.

  3. Overtaking: Riders can overtake opponents during the race, but it must be done cleanly and without interfering with other riders. Pushing, blocking, or impeding other competitors is not allowed.

  4. Obstacles: Riders must navigate every obstacle on the course. Failure to complete an obstacle may result in time penalties or disqualification.

  5. Finish Line: The first rider to cross the line is the winner. In some competitions, the top two or three riders from each heat advance to the next round. 

What Does a Snowboard Cross Course Look Like?

No two snowboard cross courses are exactly the same. However, they often contain common elements such as jumps, cambered turns, berms, and rollers.

For more of an idea, try out our POV of the snowboard cross course in Big White Resort, Canada.

Jumps

As I said, there are no style points in snowboard cross. But that doesn’t mean no jumps!

Riders generally have to catch air a handful of times throughout a course, adding another skill to their tool kit.

And while it might sound like fun, this isn’t your typical tour around the terrain park.

Not only do riders have to spot their landing, they also have to keep one eye on the other riders.

Cambered Turns

Courses aren’t straight-shots down the hill with a few jumps thrown in. That wouldn’t be very fun.

While boarders gather wicked speed on straightaways, course creators also throw in twists and turns so that the riders have to be more strategic with their pace.

The turns are cambered, meaning they’re set at an angle so that riders can maintain a lot of their speed going in without eating a mouthful of snow.

Berms And Rollers

As if jumps and turns weren’t enough, throw some berms and rollers into the mix.

Berms are small terraces or drops thrown into a course.

Rollers are similar except that they’re rounder and usually come in a series.

The goal is to maintain speed without being thrown off balance. Trickier than it sounds. 

Crashes

With such wild terrain, it’s near impossible to avoid crashes. 

It’s one of the things that makes the sport so special – the margins between winning and losing are often razor-thin.

And even though most athletes have an incredible amount of focus and skill, crashes happen.

At the last Olympics in Beijing, a Canadian athlete even had an Italian land on top of her going off a jump. And not in a good way. 

It’s just the nature of the game.

The History Of Snowboard Cross

Snowboard cross – or boarder cross as it’s often called – didn’t exist before the 1990s.

Since then, the sport has gained quite the following among adrenaline junkies.

The Birth Of Snowboard Cross

As the story goes, a couple of TV producers in Canada came up with an the idea for an event.

The aim – combine snowboarding with the already popular motocross.

And after a bit of fine tuning, they brought it to MTV Sports Canada. 

Supposedly the first-ever race took place on a sunny day in Whistler back in 1991. Those were the days!

History At The X-Games

Snowboard cross was a part of the very first winter X-Games in 1997.

Shaun Palmer took home the gold and the sport continued to be a big part of the games for years.

The X-Games removed the event in 2012.

What a mistake!

They quickly reintroduced the event in 2014. As of 2023, it’s still part of the winter X-games!

History At The Olympics

As with most sports, the Olympics were a little slower to accept snowboard cross.

In fact, it didn’t make its debut until 2006 in Turin, Italy.

The winners that year were America’s Seth Wescott and Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden.

Read our dedicated article for more info on the history of snowboarding in the olympics

The Popularity Of Snowboard Cross

Snowboard cross has almost always been a part of the x-games, only missing one year.

It’s also been in every Olympics since its first year in 2006, and most competitors dedicate themselves to that event alone.

Riders from around the world now take part, making it a truly international event.

The men’s semifinals at Beijing alone had participants from: 

  • Canada
  • Austria
  • France
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • USA

Mixed Snowboard Cross

Recently the IOC decided to crank things up a notch, introducing mixed snowboard cross as a new event at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The rules for this event are mostly the same as the individual race, except riders are part of a team – one man and one woman.

The male side of each team takes off first, and once times are recorded at the bottom of the course, the female sides are released at the top according to staggered times.

The USA’s Nick Baumgartner and Lindsey Jacobellis took the gold at the first-ever event, with Italy coming in second and Canada in third.

Final Thoughts

Snowboard cross is about as high flying as racing sports come, and judging by its popularity at the x-games and the Olympics, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Men and women alike are picking up the sport, making the event more competitive each year. Now is as good a time as ever to start following it!

Where to next? 

Well, if you’re looking for a board, check out my favorite all-mountain snowboards

Happy riding!

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8 comments

Dale 30/01/2023 - 5:37 am

Snowboard cross is epic. If you haven’t tried it, get on it!

WilliamstadS 02/03/2023 - 11:28 pm

Do you prefer snowboard cross or powder snowboarding?

Fraser 03/03/2023 - 8:24 pm

Hi William!

As I get older, I’m more and more obsessed with powder snowboarding.

There’s nothing else like it!

Boardercross is still pretty cool though.

Happy riding!

LucilleSam 08/04/2023 - 4:25 pm

Just wanted to say thanks for all your hard work. This site has really helped me out this season. Respect

Charles 29/04/2023 - 2:05 pm

Great article – thanks!

Kane 30/04/2023 - 7:28 am

The site is coming along awesome. keep it up

Sara 01/05/2023 - 2:14 am

I tried it for the first time last weekend. Ouch!

Anthony 13/05/2023 - 11:30 am

Would you recommend snowcross or boarder cross for an intermediate rider?

Comments are closed.

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