Your Guide to the Snowboarding Events at the 2022 Winter Olympics

Don't know your alpine events from your freestyle? Snowboard Expert Kevin D. overviews all the snowboard events at the Olympics so you know what you're watching!

The Olympic halfpipe in Vancouver.

Photo by Lee LeFever

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Who is shready to watch Olympic Snowboarding in Beijing, China at the 2022 Winter Olympics? Snowboard competitions at the Winter Olympics are marquee events and some of the most exciting action you'll see.

But, it hasn’t always been that way! The earliest snowboarding competitions were solely alpine events. Since it was a new sport, snowboarding mimicked skiing with slalom and downhill races. The equipment was crude, and it was more about staying on the board through the finish than anything else.

Fast forward to 7:15 in the video below to see some classic alpine racing!

Now, the equipment is highly specialized, and its athletes span the globe. Currently, those dominating the alpine events are the Europeans. That said, snowboard competitions have their roots in the USA, and we are always in the mix!

In Beijing, viewers will enjoy 11 events, including the new mixed team snowboard cross event. Each event has a men’s and women's division, both competing on the same course and features.

Here is a brief overview of the different snowboard competition events happening this Olympic year. In each event, I have listed the leading competitors in the International Ski Federation’s (FIS) Snowboard Hub, who are sanctioned Olympic qualifiers. Competitors have to compete all season long in FIS events in order to make their country’s Olympic team. I‘ll also share my takes on USA's best chance at making a podium finish.

Alpine Competitions

Snowboard Cross

This event is great to watch and will excite anyone watching the Games, not just snowboard fans. It more closely resembles a motocross race than anything else in the alpine disciplines. Competitors line up four across and race down the course together, navigating through rhythm sections, jumps, and banked turns, trying not to run off course or—worst case—into each other!

This is nice and simple… the fastest person wins. There are heat races where the first two finishers advance, culminating into the final where the podium will be decided. The equipment is unique and built for speed and edge hold.

New for 2022 is a mixed team event where nations will put their best male and female riders together to compete. Each team is made up of two snowboarders, one woman and one man, with men competing first and women second. When the first team member crosses the line, the time advantage is transferred to the female teammate. The female athletes begin their runs in a staggered format, with the time advantage they hold added to the beginning. The first female athlete to pass the line wins the race.

Men’s Current Snowboard Cross FIS Leaders

  • Martin Nörl (Germany)
  • Alessandro Hämmerle (Austria)
  • Jacob Dusek (Austria)

USA Men’s Best Chance at the Podium

  • Nick Baumgartner: currently ranked 8th in the world. He's a 2017 world champion and just missed the podium in Pyeongchang with a 4th place finish.

Women’s Current Snowboard Cross FIS Leaders

  • Charlotte Banks (Great Britain)
  • Chloe Trespeuch (France)
  • Belle Brockhoff (Australia)

USA Women’s Best Chance at the Podium

  • Lindsey Jacobellis: currently ranked 5th in the world. Lindsey is the most decorated snowboard cross athlete—male or female. Unfortunately, the Olympics has been her Achilles heel. Out of four attempts, she has only made the podium once, ranking silver. Will 2022 be her year for gold?

Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom

This event is most closely related to alpine ski racing. In this timed event, two competitors race down a course set with gates, each having a chance on both courses. The fastest average time moves on, culminating into a final, and the podium is set for the top three fastest averages.

The equipment is very unique—boards are long and stiff, and the boots mimic ski boots with fixed binding systems. Speed and carving in firm snow are the only objectives. This discipline has waned in popularity over the years among American snowboard athletes, so a podium shot is unlikely.

Men’s Current Parallel Giant FIS Leaders

  • Lee Sang-ho (Korea)
  • Stefan Baumeister (Germany)
  • Dmitry Loginov (Russia)

Women’s Current Parallel Giant FIS Leaders

  • Daniela Ulbing (Austria)
  • Ramona Theresia Hofmeister (Germany)
  • Sofiya Nadyrshina (Russia)

Freestyle Competitions

While alpine disciplines have that ultra-competitive Olympic feel, freestyle events are where you'll find the cultural heart of snowboarding. Make no mistake, these events are competitive, and these athletes invest in years of disciplined training to try and be the best.

However, what makes these athletes different is the comradery they share. For most of the year, these international athletes are teammates riding for their corporate sponsors, not individual countries. They travel together in competition while working together on film projects—which, in snowboarding culture, are valued as much or more than elite competitive accolades. They feed off each other’s successes and encourage each other, often sharing tips on how to improve. You'll find competitors cheering each other on and sharing concern if another falls. When the crowd goes nuts, competitors will be exchanging high fives and hugs!

These events are judged by an international panel of experts on style, flow, difficulty, and execution of their run.

Big Air

The Big Air jump has a run-in start that is roughly 45 feet tall. The distance of the jump is 70 feet from lip to knuckle, and athletes will be traveling around 80-90 feet to their landing sweet spot. In this event, competitors will huck their best trick (often a combination of spins, flips, and grabs). Here it's go big or go home! The highest scores in the final will fill out the podium.

Men’s Current Big Air FIS Leaders

  • Yiming Su (China)
  • Jonas Boesiger (Switzerland)
  • Rene Rinnekangas (Finland)

USA Men’s Best Chance at the Podium

  • Dusty Henricksen: While he is not the highest-ranking American in the standings, he is the smoothest and most stylish of the bunch in my opinion. If he lands his tricks, he'll likely podium with an NBD (never been done). Dusty rides the Salomon Huck Knife Pro Snowboard.

Women’s Current Big Air FIS Leaders

  • Anna Gasser (Austria)
  • Reira Iwabuchi (Japan)
  • Kokomo Murase (Japan)

USA Women’s Best Chance at the Podium

  • Hailey Langland: A child prodigy who had early success on the pro tour has been plagued with injuries stunting her rise to the top. She looks healthy this year and as stylish as ever. Hailey rides the Salomon No Drama.

Slopestyle

Slopestyle is likely the most relatable event for the average snowboarder in terms of accessibility. Every resort will have a park with rails and jumps to test freestyle skills and meet up with the homies to lap all day long. Olympic slopestyle takes place on a pro-level course where the features are exaggerated in size and scope compared to the average resort. Competitors start off slow, navigating the rail sections with style and finesse. Then they'll pin it to the jump section where they'll have two to three jumps to show off their hucking abilities. The tricks will be varied and intricate. This year, the judges will have their work cut out for them!

Men’s Current Slopestyle FIS Leaders

  • Sébastien Toutant (Canada)
  • Niek van der Velden (Denmark)
  • Yiming Su (China)

USA Men's Best Chance at the Podium

  • Red Gerard: This defending gold medalist has been on a tear lately, winning the past two World Cup Olympic qualifiers. The smart man's bet has him in gold for 2022. Red rides the 2022 Burton Custom X.

Women’s Current Slopestyle FIS Leaders

  • Kokomo Murase (Japan)
  • Melissa Peperkamp (Netherlands)
  • Reira Iwabuchi (Japan)

USA Women’s Best Chance at the Podium

  • Jamie Anderson: Years past it was a foregone conclusion that Jamie would sit on top of the podium. This Olympic year, she has her work cut out for her. The young crop of hungry rippers will be nipping at her heels for gold. She still has my vote! Jamie rides the 2022 GNU Pro Choice C3. Check out how she did in the X Games.

Halfpipe

Last but not least, we have the halfpipe. This was the competition that started it all, back in 1998 in Nagano, Japan. We can thank the snowboard halfpipe for igniting the Olympic snowboard fever, giving birth to all the other competitions to follow. Halfpipe is now the most-watched of all the events in the Winter Olympics!

Halfpipe also provided a much-needed spark for the ski industry which was stagnant at the time. Ski kids started migrating into the pipes and parks and now compete in these disciplines at the Olympic level as well.

This event takes place in the stunt ditch (superpipe) which is 66 feet wide, 22 feet tall, and 580 feet in length. Depending on how big they go, competitors will have 5-6 hits on each run to impress the judges. Some will fly over 20 feet high, spinning, flipping, and grabbing to the adulation of the spectators.

Judges want to see amplitude, style, and flow. A simple hand drag can be the difference between making it onto the podium or not. Consequences are high and there is very little margin for error. A miscalculation can end a career, but a flawless run provides instant global fame. Gold medalists will be on every news channel, shake hands with the President, and cruise the nighttime talk show circuit overnight!

Men’s Current Halfpipe FIS Leaders

  • Ayumu Hirano (Japan)
  • Rika Hirano (Japan)
  • Jan Scherrer (Switzerland)

USA Men’s Best Chance at the Podium

  • Shawn White: You can't count him out. He had a rough qualifying series and just narrowly made the team. That said, he is the fiercest competitor out there, has the experience, and thrives on pressure. If he's healthy he'll be a contender for a podium spot.

Women’s Current Halfpipe FIS Leaders

  • Xuetong Cai (China)
  • Sena Tomita (Japan)
  • Mitsuki Ono (Japan)

USA Women’s Best Chance at the Podium

  • Chloe Kim: Simply put, if Chloe doesn’t fall, she'll be in gold. She is still miles ahead of her competitors and can win with a safety run. Only if her competitors have the run of their lives will it push her to do the same. Chloe rides the 2022 Roxy XOXO C3.

Paralympic Winter Games

You can also find snowboarding events in the Paralympic Games happening March 4th through the 13th. These inspiring athletes give true meaning to “find a way, not an excuse.” Learn more about the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympic Games.

So, that's a wrap on our rundown of Olympic snowboarding in Beijing 2022. Personally, I’ll be watching it all, but if I had to pick a favorite, it’s pipe! Back in the days, I would make the annual pilgrimage to Stratton, VT where the US Open was held, and my highlight was always the pipe event. It has a different energy! It’s always had more of a fun, party atmosphere than one of intense competition. To learn more about the athletes and events to watch, read What to Look Out For in Snowboarding!

If you can't find the time to watch each event, follow along with the schedule and the results as they come in.

What's your favorite event and who are you rooting for? To chat Olympic favorites and their medal-winning gear, reach out to me or another Snowboard Expert here on Curated. We'd be happy to get geared up like a champ!

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Written By
Avid snowboard enthusiast and gear geek for over 30 years. Certified instructor and shop rat grom back in the day! Worked for local snow, surf and skate shops for 10 years before moving onto retail training and merchandising mgt. for Vans. My current 9-5 pays the bills as an technical sales engineer...

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