A lot of carvers also race, since much of the equipment is the same.
The recommended race organization for snowboarders is
the USASA (United States of America
Snowboard Association). They hold many snowboard competitions throughout
the season and offer three disciplines:
- Alpine (Giant Slalom and Slalom)
- Freestyle (Slopestyle and Halfpipe)
The USASA has a total of 36 regional snowboard series throughout the
USA. You can compete in any event in any series, for around $20/event,
and the USASA people also sell discount lift tickets at their events.
The first time you compete during a season, you register with the USASA,
pay a $60 annual fee, specify your age division, and specify your home
series. You can race in any series, and you are awarded points based on
your placement, but only points from races in your home series count toward
your eligibility for the National competition. Many USASA series use the
table on the right to award points. As an example: For the Alpine discipline, suppose a regional series runs 3 GS races and 3 SL races, and you participate in 5 of them and place third in each. You get 5 x 60 points = 300 points for the season. The person who gets the most points for each discipline gets to go to nationals. With 300 points, you have a good shot. That's because you beat someone who always places first but only attends 2 races, and you beat the guy who always comes in 2nd, but who only attends 3 races.
While the USASA is competitive, it has is a very supportive vibe, and beginners
will feel welcomed. USASA uses real snowboard gates and stubbies, which are
far more snowboard-friendly than skier flags. You can often meet other carvers
and carving instructors at USASA events, and snag some free advice. As a beginner,
stick to GS races, because they are closest to a carving style. Slalom style
is purely cross-under, in which your torso follows a straight line down the
slope while your legs flick from side to side around tight turns.
Other USASA particulars:
- For some age groups/disciplines, the USASA may allocate more spots for Nationals,
which are awarded as wildcard spots.
- As of 2004, there is no gifting - once you get into Nationals, you can only
compete in the discipline for which you qualified. If you only qualified for
alpine, you can't compete in halfpipe.
- For more detailed info, see the USASA
rule book, which refers to the ISF rulebook.
- According to USASA rule 603, for BX events, you need to use a board with
tail corners that have at least a 50 mm radius (no square tailed boards),
and you can't wear a speed suit. You can wear hard boots and bindings, but
landings might be painful. In the future, there is a chance that the USASA
might require soft boots and upturned tails in the BX.
- According to USASA rule 151.01, snowboards greater than 135 cm in gliding
length are allowed to be as narrow as 16 cm. Which means you can't race on
a Skwal, or on a skinny Virus or Trans board.
- The USASA usually offers an early-bird renewal rate if you pay the annual fee before November 1st.
The USSA (United States Ski and Snowboard
Association) holds big time events: several Grand Prix races and the World Cup.
See the USSA rulebook
which is based on the FIS snowboard rules
The USCSA (US Collegiate Ski and Snowboard
Association) holds events that are sanctioned by the USSA. The rules are defined
by three rule books in priority order:
- USCSA rulebook
- USSA rulebook
- FIS rulebook
NASTAR is a racing system where you don't
compete against other people - you instead compete against a handicap chart.
NASTAR is cheap, at only $5 for 2 runs. Of the two runs, only the best time
is used in any handicap / ranking calculations. Unfortunately, NASTAR is not
snowboarder-friendly because they do not use snowboard gates. However, it provides
good practice: as a beginner, do some runs early in the morning when the course
is nicely groomed. Later in the day, the bumps and 2-level skier ruts require
more skill to navigate. There are 22 age groups, as well as several divisions.
As a snowboarder, you will be in the recreational division. You only need to
race once to get a resort ranking and a national ranking (The score from your
best day is used). You need to race at least twice to get a state ranking (The
score from your second best day is used). You are ranked by your handicap, which
is the percentage that you are slower than the national pace setter. If you
have a 15 handicap, you are 15% slower than the fastest member of the U.S. Ski
Team. After you are assigned a handicap, you qualify for a medal based on your
discounted handicap. Snowboarders get a 10% discount, which means that 10 is
subtracted from your handicap. Skiers are often faster than snowboarders due
to the double effective edge from two planks. For each age group, there are
ranges of handicaps that will get you a gold, silver, and bronze medal. The
ranges are different for men and women.
Here is an example: A snowboarder runs two races, getting a 29 handicap on
the first race and a 25 handicap on the second race. The snowboarder gets a
handicap of 25 for the day, which means the snowboarder is 25% slower than the
national pacesetter. The snowboard discount is 10, so for medal purposes, the
handicap is 25-10 = 15. If the snowboarder is in the 30-34 age group and is
a male, then according to the table on the NASTAR web site, the handicap ranges
for medal purposes are as follows:
|Male, 30-34 age group
So the snowboarder gets the silver. Soon after you run your first NASTAR race,
you should go to the NASTAR web site and create a password for your registration
number to protect your privacy.
Jeep and NASTAR run the Jeep King of the
Mountain events, which consist of a Y-course, which is PGS for the first
half of the race, followed by Boardercross in the second half. With the Boardercross
lure, it is definitely a way to draw more people into watching alpine.
Regional Ski clubs
- Lake Tahoe: The Bay Area
Council of Ski clubs sponsors two racing clubs. Even though these clubs
include snowboarders, they may not use snowboard gates:
- Open League Racing, consisting of
about 20 teams that compete 12 times per year. Open League now has 4 classes
of snowboard racers. From level 2 who are fairly fast, weekend-warrior
racers, down to level 8 who are often competing on freestyle or freecarve
equipment. The division of classes allows every entrant an opportunity
to compete and win. New racers are assigned to a class based on their
performance at the first race of the season. For more information on Open
League snowboard racing, feel free to contact
- Singles League Racing,
consisting of 6 teams that compete 8 times per year. You have to be single
to join. They have three skill levels for snowboarders. Snowboarders do
1 run before the skiers, and are usually done by 10:30, so it's a quick
- Summit County: Team Summit.
Racing vs. Carving
There are a few differences between carving and racing:
- Carvers finish their turns but racers don't. Carvers make complete half-circles,
which would be too wide for a race course. Racers make turns that are more
elongated in the direction of the fall line, and change edges before the board
becomes perpendicular to the fall line. This difference is the primary reason
why carving technique is different from racing technique. If you tried to
carve on a PGS course, you would probably encroach on your neighbor.
- Racers minimize their body movement to follow the fastest line down a course,
but carvers apply exaggerated movements. Carvers often rotate their torso
into the slope ahead of the long axis of the board on each turn to carve half-circles,
whereas racers typically keep their torso facing a direction between the angle
of their bindings and the long axis of the board to avoid over-rotation.
- Carvers never skid, but the winning racer will always skid. Racers often
skid or glide flat on the board, especially at the beginning of each turn.
- Racers try to be as fast as possible, whereas many carving styles often
result in the slowest possible speed down the fall line. Carvers can tip the
board high on edge and carve tight radius turns, which generates a centripetal
force that counteracts gravity and bleeds off speed. As you get better at
carving, your technique will result in slower speeds, which will require you
to move to steeper and steeper terrain to maintain sufficient speed to get
the board to carve.
Carvers are often anti-competitive. The idea is to express
yourself rather than compete.
- On the other hand, there is a ski carving competition sanctioned by the FIS. Skiers turn around buoys and are rated on carving skill.
Racing is racing, and carving is carving, and never the twain shall meet.
There are a few basic tips:
- Look several gates in advance when you plan your line.
- Start changing edges for your next gate at the time you pass the current
gate: You need to start turning for the next gate sooner than you think.
- Unlike carving, you should not over-rotate your upper body: Keep your torso
facing a direction between your binding angles and the long axis of the board.
- When rounding a gate, stay inside the berm created by the other racers:
it's slower to carve a turn outside the berm.
- If you race on courses with pole gates, you may need to bash each pole with
your leading forearm, in which case you need some forearm protection.
- If you are racing in a league with both skiers and snowboarders, it will
be far more pleasant if you can race before the skiers, who leave confounding
- Check out the tips from the Sun
Peaks race camp
- It's important to visualization the dynamic pressure you are exerting on
the board. Jasey-Jay grips a ski pole handle while he rides to help with this
- Check out the Pro Tips link on Chris
- A few race gear sites include Reliable
Racing, Race Werks, Artech,
and The Race Place
Racers need gear that will absorb the bumps and chatter that come from a rutted-up course:
- Board: Racers often like to use wider boards that allow lower boot angles, to allow more leverage and maneuverability. Boards also must be very damp for better edge hold. In PGS, courses don't get reset between heats, so the slope can get really chopped up. Titanal has recently made a splash at the pro level, since it provides an extra level of dampness. A typical board size falls into the range:
Boards that appear to be popular at the world cup level seem to be Tomahawk, F2 Speedster, Prior WCR, Donek Race, Coiler PureRace.
- For GS: 185cm length, 15M radius
- For SL: 162cm length, 10M radius
- Bindings: Step-in Bindings are often too stiff for racers (even though some racers use them, like Jasey-Jay). Most racers ride on a softer non-stepin binding. On the other hand, if Titanal boards become super-damp, it may be possible to use stepin bindings on them without getting bumped around. Jasey-Jay uses an über-damp Titanal Coiler, with Catek short plate step-ins. Bindings that appear to be popular at the world cup level seem to be Burton Race, F2 Race Titanium, Phiokka Highlander, Bomber, Catek.
- Boots: With a softer binding to absorb vibrations before the get to the boots, a stiffer boot can come in handy for power control: DeeLuxe Indy, Burton Furnace, Burton Reactor, Burton Fire, UPZ. Anton Pogue and Ryan McDonald ride on modified ski boots.
Carve Camps and Race Camps
Race camps usually offer private gate training, video analysis, socializing,
and highly qualified instructors. A fair amount of time is spent on carving
technique. Timberline at Mt. Hood is a popular destination for summer race camps,
and you can save money by camping. There are a few regular race camps:
- Snowperfomance.com offers
carve camps and race camps, often in December, the spring, and sometimes the summer:
- The winter carve camps in December and March are geared toward carving
and gate training. Riders are separated into skill levels, so the camp
is ideal for all skill levels, including raw beginners who have never
been on a board - they can also provide gear for beginners. The camp consists
of two days of freecarving and two days of gate training at Sun Peaks,
- The style taught by snowperformance is a stable, upright style that proves very useful on the race course. It applies not only to carving on race boards, but also to carving on BX boards with hard boots.
- For the Snowperformance camp, it is best to bring a wider alpine board, or try a wider board from their demo fleet. The Snowperformance style emphasizes the stability of low binding angles, which are accommodated by a wider board. A Madd would not be a good choice.
- The summer camp in August focuses on race training at Timberline on
Mount Hood - there is very little freecarving, and it is geared for more
advanced riders. They have private lanes on Palmer Glacier, and train
from 7 AM to 1 PM. Because of the coarse snow and salt, it is necessary
to tune your board each night. It is also essential to wear protective
clothing on any exposed skin, otherwise you will wind up with major road
rash when you fall.
- Camps with larger attendance include world class celebrity coaches.
- You get private gates, video analysis, Donek demo boards, and Bomber demo bindings. The summer
camps often include Whitewater rafting on the Deschutes River.
- Snowperformance also holds camps at various resorts in the West and
in the Southern Hemisphere during the summer. If you get a group of at
least 6 people, Snowperformance can put together a customized race or
- Chris Karol hosts a carve camp each year around the SES time frame. You can book it at aspensnowmass.com. It will be Feb 9-11, 2007.
- A bunch of Pros give put on the Next Level Race Camp right before Nationals.
- Chris Klug hosts a 3-day Burton-Klug Aspen Snowboard
Camp every year in March/April. He also has a summer training camp at Hood.
- The Aspen Valley Ski &
Snowboard Club offers world class training.
- For the Summer of '04, there was a Race/Surf
camp in Chile put on by some pros. If you have a group of 6 people, they could probably put it together for you.
- Powderquest puts together camps
and tours in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Yoon Dong Hyuk hosts a Korean summer
- Eboshi Snowboard
School has a beginner carve camp in Japan.
- The JSBA hosts carve camps in Japan.
- Sigi Grabner often hosts a carving/racing camp in Japan each year.
In the summer at Timberline, the snow tends to be bulletproof in the morning.
Throwing salt on the ice causes it to soften up in the morning and keep it from
getting slushy in the afternoon as the day gets warmer. The science goes like
- Throwing salt on ice causes the salt to dissolve into the ice. The resulting
mixture has a lower melting point than the ice, hopefully below the current
- Because the melting point of the mixture is below its current temperature,
the mixture will change phase from solid to liquid.
- As the mixture changes from solid to liquid, it must absorb energy equal
to the latent heat of fusion for water, which is 80 calories per gram. It
takes this energy from the surrounding environment, and as a result, the temperature
of the mixture drops while it softens up.
- In addition to the drop in temperature from the heat of fusion, the temperature
of the mixture drops further because dissolving salt into water is an endothermic
reaction. Separating Sodium-Chloride salt molecules into Sodium ions and Chlorine
ions draws heat from the water.
- The temperature of the mixture will hit the new melting point and the system
will reach equilibrium.
- What you get is a firm mixture that is colder than the solid ice you started
with. You basically get refrigerated snow that lasts longer.
When you attend a camp that has video analysis, the video often shows carvers
totally silhouetted in black against the white snow. It helps if you can:
- Wear light colored gloves, so you can see what your hands are doing. Get
these at the closeout sales at the end of the season.
- Put reflective stickers on your helmet, one centered at the font and one
centered at the rear. This way, you can tell which direction you are facing.
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