How Snowboarding Works

By: Stephanie Watson

Snowboarding Styles and Tricks

Anne-Sophie Barthet of France competes during the women's Halfpipe portion of the 2008 FIS World Cup.
Anne-Sophie Barthet of France competes during the women's Halfpipe portion of the 2008 FIS World Cup.
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

There's more to snowboarding than standing on a curved piece of wood and hurtling yourself down a mountain. There are hundreds of subtle techniques and tricks that separate the novices from the pros on the slopes.

First is the way snowboarders move. Unlike skiers, who shift their weight from side to side, snowboarders shift their weight from heel to toe. The technique is more like surfing or skateboarding than skiing. When they shift their weight forward, the board goes downhill or speeds up. When they shift their weight backward, the board slows down. When they dig their heels down, the edge of the snowboard drags in the snow and stops.


Snowboarders have two different stances. In the regular stance, which is most popular, the left foot goes in front of the right. In the goofy stance, the right foot goes in front of the left.

There are also several main snowboarding styles. In freeride, the snowboarder rides down the mountain, taking advantage of the landscape's natural bumps and curves to catch air and do tricks. Freestyle focuses on tricks, such as spins, jumps, grabbing the board in mid-air, and sliding down rails. Resorts have their own sections -- called snowparks -- for freestyle devotees. Alpine is a style similar to skiing that emphasizes fast speed and hard turns. Halfpipe is a style played out in a U-shaped trench also called a halfpipe. As snowboarders ride down one side and up another, they gather enough momentum to go airborne and do tricks.

The most experienced and agile snowboarders -- the ones who have become legendary in snowboarding circles -- have gotten their reputations because of the incredible jumps, spins, grabs and flips they can do. These are just a few of the mind-bending tricks great snowboarders can pull off:

  • 360: A 360-degree spin in the air.
  • 50/50 grind: A trick done sliding down a rail.
  • 540: One-and-a-half full spins in the air.
  • Alley oop: A trick done in the halfpipe, in which the snowboarder spins 180 degrees while heading uphill.
  • Backside 720: Two full spins in the air
  • Butter: A series of full turns.
  • Grab: Holding into the edge of the board in mid-air.
  • Invert: Turning upside down in mid-air.

Many of these moves are included in snowboarding competitions. Read on to learn more about these competitions.