Snowboarding combines elements of skiing and surfing. The first known snowboard was a "Snurfer", built in 1966. The sport took hold in the early 80's, and the world's first (unofficial) snowboard championships were held in Soda Springs, California in 1983. In 1987, a four-stop World Cup tour was established. It was first included in the Olympics in 1988.
Snowboarders have both feet strapped to a single "board" that is shorter and wider than a ski. Many like to perform tricks in snow bowls and in moguls. Snowboarding has become very popular with the youth and young adults.
There are several "flavours: of Snowboarding: The Halfpipe is a judged freestyle event in which riders move down a 100 metre long 15 metre wide half-cylinder-shaped course of snow ramps in a Z-pattern, and perform a routine of eight acrobatic jumps, twists and tricks on alternating walls before crossing a finish line. Runs are accompanied by music, though unlike figure skaters riders don't synchronize their routines to the music, which serves just to raise adrenaline levels. Riders are scored by five judges on variety, difficulty, height and execution of maneuvers, cleanness of landings, and technical merit.
In the Parallel Giant Slalom (PGS) event, instead of running against the clock, the athletes are going head-to-head. There non-Olympic snowboarding races with up to 4 athletes on a single course, which adds an element of race strategy along with audience excitement from collisions and wipe-outs.
Many snowboarders can spend an entire weekend on the hill (several resorts have on-hill accommodation), or stay overnight at local hotels, lodges or inns. If you want to board the next day and a big dump is expected overnight, consider driving to the resort and overnighting. You're fresher for a day of great boarding, and the snow may close the highway and you have the hill to yourself.
Snowboarding is a relatively expensive sport, though you can save on the high initial cost of equipment by renting your equipment. Freestyle snowboards are shorter and wider than alpine boards. The reduced length helps riders swing their boards more freely while performing tricks, and the increased width provides more stability for the rider.
A boarder's wardrobe includes a warm water-resistant winter outfit (not jeans), a tuque, a scarf or neck tube, ski gloves, ski goggles and warm undergarments and socks. Of course, for above-zero spring skiing, you no longer have to dress for warmth.
Most sports shops will have snowboarding equipment and clothing in season (watch for "end of season" sales by Valentine's Day) though ski hills have pro shop to sell anything forgotten, broken or lost. There is also an annual fall Ski Swap for both new and used equipment, which makes it easy to compare products and prices.
Calgary has several major Ski/Snowboarding resorts within two hours drive (Canada Olympic Park, Wintergreen, Nakiska, Fortress Mountain, Banff/Mt. Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise) and several more just a little farther away (Ski Hills Listing) All hills offer a range of ability and budget, and offer season's and weekly passes. All resorts offer lessons and equipment rental and most have "first-time skier" specials.
For both the social and competitive aspects of skiing and snowboarding, check out the ski and snowboard clubs. For starters, try the Calgary Ski Club (282-4122).
The major local ski hills have many spectator events and competitions over the winter. Contact the hills for information.