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What You Need to Know About Snowboarding

 How It Works
 Critical Moment
 U.S. Outlook
 Others to Watch

Venues: The snowboard halfpipe will take place at the Kanbayashi Snowboard Park in Yamanouchi Town, which, after it was built in 1995, became one of the few slopes in Nagano made exclusively for snowboarding.

The giant slalom events will be held at Mount Yakebitai, just north of Mount Higashidate. Good powder, varied terrain and steep slopes make the location ideal for the event.

 Washington Post Graphic
How It Works: Snowboarding, which resembles skiing but looks more like surfing or skateboading, will make its Winter Olympic debut in the Nagano Games. It consists of two events. Competitors ride with both feet on a single wide board that is specialized for each event. In the giant slalom, competitors use the hard alpine boards as they descend a downhill course while traveling between gates (graphic). Boarders are judged on speed and technique.

The halfpipe event takes place on a U-shaped course, where competitors ride back and forth up to the edge of the pipe while performing aerial tricks and jumps. Participants use the more flexible freestyle board, and are judged on standard maneuvers, rotational maneuvers, amplitude, landings and overall/technical merit. There will be men's and women's events for both giant slalom and halfpipe.

Critical Moment: The halfpipe is performed on a course shaped like a cylinder cut lengthwise, about 390 feet long with an 18-degree slope. It is 49 feet wide and 11½ feet high. Using speed gained on the slope, snowboarders come up over the rim of the course to perform jumps, rotations and other midair maneuvers. The object is to perform difficult maneuvers with perfect form.
Halfpipe Moves
 No Grab: Twisting or arching while going up.
 Invert: Handstands and other moves where hands are lower than board.
 Spin: Rotating 360 degrees, 540 degrees or even 730 degrees.

Glossary: Snowboarding has its own colorful vocabulary, in which there are many different words for falling, the process of falling and events immediately before falling. Many of the trick names include the word "air," such as Canadian Bacon Air, Slob Air and Suitcase Air. A sampling of terms:
 Bail (also Pack or Crater): Crashing or falling. (Example: He bailed and landed on his head.)
 Beat (also Wack): Something that is not good. (Example: It's pretty beat that my board broke in half.)
 Bone: Straighten one or both legs.
 Bonk: The act of hitting a non-snow object, such as a picnic table, with the snowboard.
 Bust: A more emphatic verb meaning "to do." (Example: He busted a huge air over that tree.)
 Chatter: When the snowboard vibrates unnecessarily, usually at high speed or in turns.
 Fakie: Riding backward.
 Fat (also Phat and Sick): Exceptional.
 Gap Jump: A jump built with space between the takeoff and landing. Not clearing the gap usually has unfortunate consequences.
 Goofy Footed: Riding with the right foot forward. (Left foot forward is the regular stance.)
 Grommet: A small, young boarder.
 Hucker: One who throws himself wildly through the air and doesn't land on his feet.
 Lip Trick: A trick performed on or near the top edge of the halfpipe wall.
 Pipe Dragon: A grooming machine that shapes the walls of a halfpipe.
 Poach: If an area is closed but you rode it anyway, you poached it.
 Railing: Making fast, hard turns.
 Rolling Down the Windows: When a person's arms are flailing in the air trying to recover balance.
 Snake: Someone who cuts in front of you in the lift line or drops in front of you in the halfpipe.
 Stick: Another name for a snowboard, it is also used to describe a good landing. (Example: He stuck a Method Air off that jump.)
 Stomp: A good landing. (Example: He stomped that McTwist.)

History: The history of snowboarding is unlike that of other winter sports, some of which are thousands of years old. It has only been within the past 30 years that snowboarding has caught on, with the credit going to Sherman Poppen, of Muskegon, Mich. In 1964, Poppen built a snowboard after watching his daughter try to slide down a hill while standing on her sled. His invention became popular enough to attract the attention of the Brunswick Corp., who manufactured the "Snurfer" for about $10 each. It was 14-year-old Jake Burton Carpenter who, after using the Snurfer, decided it could use some adjustments. By the time he was 23, in 1977, Carpenter, using an inheritance he had gotten from his grandmother, had founded Burton Snowboards, now the world's largest snowboard manufacturer.

By the mid-1980s, snowboarding's popularity erupted. According to industry estimates, snowboarders spent more than $150 million on boards and gear in 1997.

The first National Snowsurfing Championship took place in 1982 at Suicide Six Ski Area in Woodstock, Vt. Downhill and slalom races were featured, and, a year later, the halfpipe was introduced. The first snowboarding World Cup was held in 1987, with two events in both Europe and America. On Dec. 5, 1995, the International Olympic Committee announced that snowboarding would become a medal event at the Nagano Games.

EventDateTime (ET)
Men's Giant SlalomSunday, Feb. 87:30 p.m. (Feb. 7)
Women's Giant SlalomMonday, Feb. 97:30 p.m. (Feb. 8)
Men's and Women's
Halfpipe Eliminations
Thursday, Feb. 127:30 a.m. (Feb. 11)
Men's and Women's
Halfpipe Finals
Monday, Feb. 911:30 p.m.(Feb. 11)

U.S. Outlook: Both the men's and women's teams for the United States have a good shot a earning medals in the giant slalom and halfpipe events. Leading the men's team is Dan Smith, the current No. 1 ranked halfpipe rider on the team and the 1996 International Snowboard Federation halfpipe champion, Ross Powers. Former World Cup halfpipe champion Sabrina Sadeghi is a strong medal contender for the women's team.

The best hope for the United States in the women's giant slalom rests with Sondra Van Ert, who won the 1997 World Championships in San Candido, Italy. Considered the best in the world, 27-year-old Mike Jacoby and newcomer Ian Price will be in prime condition to earn medals for the men's team.

Others to Watch: While the snowboarding craze began in the United States, is has certainly drawn a lot of interest and talent from Europe. The team from Switzerland features world champion halfpipers, Fabien Roher and Anita Schwaller, and the Norwegian team also has two strong halfpipe contenders in Roge Hjelmstadstuen and Christel Thoresen. Look for a strong showing from the Canadian, Italian, French and Austrian teams.

Italy's Thomas Prugger and Margherita Parini will likely give medal performances in the giant slalom, as will as Austrian candidates Peter Pechhacker and Harald Walder. Karine Ruby, of France, has been a consistent winner on tour and will be another one to look out for in Nagano.

Trivia: 1. What was the name of the first snowboard to go into production?
2. Who was the only American to win a snowboard world championship in 1997?
3. Snowboarding became an official Olympic sport in what year?

© Copyright 1998

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