6 Things to Know About Boardercross

Speed, jumps, drops, and the occa­sion­al collision—that’s the essence behind board­er­cross (also referred to as snow­board cross), a team sport that pits four to six snow­board­ers against one anoth­er as they nav­i­gate their way through a fast, nar­row course all with the same goal: to be the first to pass the fin­ish line.

You’ll see board­er­cross at the upcom­ing 2014 Win­ter Olympics in Sochi—here’s what you need to know about the sport.

Born in Whistler, British Colum­bia
In the ear­ly ‘90s, Amer­i­can snow­board film­mak­er Greg Stump was mak­ing a series, “Greg Stump’s World of Extremes.” While film­ing an extreme ski con­test on Black­comb Moun­tain in Whistler, BC, Greg and his part­ner, Steven Rechtschaffn­er, were stumped on what to cov­er for the final episode of the series. They decid­ed to build a motor­cross-style course in the snow, and spent the night shap­ing the course with a snow cat.

And so, on a spring day in 1991, board­er­cross was born. The jist: send sev­en snow­board­ers down the makeshift course and see who would come out first.

Let the Com­pe­ti­tion Begin
The X Games is the Big Kahu­na of extreme sports com­pe­ti­tion, and board­er­cross was part of the first Win­ter X Games in 1997. In fact, it was the longest run­ning Win­ter X‑Games event until it was cut from the ros­ter in 2013, a “busi­ness deci­sion” that was sup­pos­ed­ly made due to the wan­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of the sport.

On the Olympics side, board­er­cross is still going strong (though it is called snow­board cross in the Olympics). It made its debut in the 2006 Win­ter Olympics.

The Course
Every board­er­cross course is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. They all slope down­hill and are usu­al­ly quite nar­row. Since mul­ti­ple rid­ers (usu­al­ly four) com­pete at a time, the nar­row­ness of the course means get­ting com­pet­i­tive with your oppo­nents to get–and stay–in the lead.

Cours­es include sev­er­al features—steeps, flats, drops, berms, gap jumps, and so forth. Rid­ers need to stay in con­trol while nav­i­gat­ing these obsta­cles, with­out los­ing any speed.

What You Need
The main piece of equip­ment need­ed for board­er­cross is, of course, a snow­board. The best boards for the sport are typ­i­cal­ly a lit­tle larg­er and heav­ier than your every­day freestyle board. You’ll want some­thing with a rel­a­tive­ly stiff flex that is fast and respon­sive. Grab a full-face hel­met (it can be a con­tact sport, after all), some tighter out­wear (per­haps less styl­ish than tra­di­tion­al­ly bag­gi­er snow­board garb, but it helps min­i­mize wind drag) and per­haps some pro­tec­tive gear to wear under­neath your outerwear.

Oh Yes—You’ll Also Need Skills
Board­er­cross is a lot of fun—the course is built for speed, and the ups, downs and turns can feel a lit­tle bit like a roller coast­er ride. If you con­sid­er your­self a skilled snow­board­er who likes going high speeds and can straight-air 15 foot jumps, you’ll prob­a­bly have quite a good time play­ing around on a course.

But it’s a whole dif­fer­ent ball­game when you add a few oth­er com­peti­tors to the course. Nor­mal­ly snow­board­ing isn’t done with oth­er rid­ers imme­di­ate­ly beside you, so the feel­ing is a lit­tle unnat­ur­al at first. Crash­es at high speeds and col­li­sions are part of the sport. Impec­ca­ble con­trol on the board is an absolute must.

Who to Watch For
There are strong ath­letes from sev­er­al coun­tries in board­er­cross, mak­ing it an espe­cial­ly excit­ing sport to watch. USA’s Scott Wescott has claimed gold in the men’s snow­board cross in both the 2006 and 2010 Win­ter Olympics, and he will def­i­nite­ly be one to watch in Sochi. Cana­da, France and Switzer­land are also quite competitive—Maëlle Rick­er of Cana­da places first in the women’s snow­board cross in 2010 (on her home moun­tain, Whistler) and will be com­pet­ing once more in Sochi.

Board­er­cross is a fan­tas­tic sport for spec­ta­tors, so be sure to check out the races in the 2014 Win­ter Olympic Games!