Surprisingly, there are 28 different snowboard disciplines – more than most people realise. This detailed guide to styles and types of snowboarding will help you understand the variety of ways you can shred.
But before we get started, you need to know that the majority of shredders ride many different styles. Often within the same run a snowboarder will shoot off-piste, do tricks off side hits and then carve up the groomers.
Styles and types of snowboarding
Although the different snowboard disciplines are all distinct, they all share the same skills. You may consider yourself a freestyler, but take that trick you learnt in the park off-piste and suddenly you are a freerider.
The different types of snowboarding are a very fluid thing. That is until you get into competition riding when you will be doing a specific discipline. Although even then the pros often complete in a few different snowboarding styles.
Personally I spend as much time as possible off-piste and love heading into the backcountry. But I also spend time in the park, time carving and time in bars pretending I am a better rider than I actually am…
Different snowboard disciplines
To make it easy to navigate, this detailed guide to styles and types of snowboarding is in alphabetical order.
All Mountain snowboarding
Not really a type of snowboarding, more a kind of snowboard. But ‘All Mountain’ is a phrase you will see banded around a lot so it warrants an explanation.
As the name implies, an all mountain snowboard is a jack of all trades that can do everything. Now I will let you into a little secret, all snowboards can do everything, if you ride them properly.
However, an AM board will not specialise in any one discipline making it fairly good for anything type of snowboarding. That said, an AM board won’t be as good in the park as a freestyle noodle or as good off-piste as a freeride stick.
Although not really a snowboard discipline, in a way nearly every snowboarder is an all-mountain rider. This is because very few of us stick exclusively to one style of snowboarding – even the most dedicated park rat will head off-piste on a powder day.
The original form of snowboarding that grew out of alpine skiing, and traditionally used to describe all downhill snowboarding. But these days ‘Alpine snowboarding’ often refers to the niche of hardboot snowboarding (see below).
Alpine snowboarding is also used to describe a way to snowboard – which an instructor in Lech, Austria insisted on teaching me it. Your bindings are more forward facing, with your body and shoulders facing forward, so across the board rather than parallel to it. It is useful off-piste.
This is more to do with where you snowboard rather than how you do it. Backcountry snowboarding is going out beyond the edge of the ski resort, out of bounds into the non patrolled mountains.
Whether you take a chairlift and snowboard outside the area, hike, snowshoe, splitboard, cat ski or heli drop does not matter. To be backcountry snowboarding all the counts is you are outside the designated ski area.
You may also hear the terms sidecountry and slackcountry snowboarding. Both of these are varying degrees of backcountry. However, as soon as you are outside the resort you need all the avalanche gear and to know how to use it.
Big Air snowboarding
Big air is a competitive snowboard discipline that uses a huge jump to get – yes you guessed it – big air. The idea is to do the best trick possible off a huge kicker. Not one for beginners!
Big mountain snowboarding
Every watched Jeremy Jones and thought that mountain looks rather steep? Well he is big mountain riding. There isn’t a specific definition of how gnarly a slope needs to be to count as big mountain. But steep, exposed and dangerous come with the territory.
Big mountain snowboarding usually takes place in the backcountry, often accessed via a helicopter or a long climb. Competitions such as the Freeride World Tour are also considered big mountain riding.
Boardercross (a.k.a. Snowboard Cross or SBX)
Although this is a competitive racing type of snowboarding, many ski resorts have boardercross tracks for visitors to ride. And I recommend that you do as not only are they fun but they improve your snowboarding.
Boardercross is essentially a race track for snowboards with a variety of features such as jumps, banked corners and rollers. Snowboarders race down it either against the clock or competing with up to six riders at a time. Style doesn’t mean anything, crossing the line first is all that matters.
Buttering is a form of ground trick you’ll see snowboarders performing all over the mountain and in the park. It is shifting your weight to the front or back of your board in order to press then adding spins and little jumps. It should be smooth like butter…
Carving is setting your edge in the snow and letting your snowboard’s sidecut do the rest of the work. If you carve properly, there is no skidding, leaving a clean line through the snow.
When carving you maintain speed – and often accelerate – through your turn. This is useful everywhere from flat areas to the halfpipe, it can also be very thrilling. There are many tricks associated with carving – see Euro carving below.
You can carve any snowboard, but those designed for carving make it easier. Just like carving a joint of meat, the smoother you carve a snowboard the better it looks.
For most snowboarders it is all about pushing themselves to try new things and improve. But not everyone is like that. Some people prefer just to cruise around the slopes, getting a lift up and heading back down in a safe and less exciting fashion.
And I would like to say there is nothing whatsoever wrong with this style of snowboarding. Afterall we all cruise at times! If you are knackered, not feeling it, hungover or just enjoying the views a cruisey few runs is perfectly fine.
But if you find yourself cruising all day every day you need to have a stern word with yourself. Afterall snowboarding is not just about getting down a slope safely – if you aren’t falling you aren’t trying hard enough.
An extreme form of carving. Euro carving is all about getting your body laid out flat parallel to the snow supported by your elbow and forearm. It looks awesome, but can wreck gloves, sleeves and elbows.
A form of hardbooting (see below), freecarve snowboarding uses hard plastic boots that make snowboarders look like skiers. Freecarving is usually riding around gates and poles as fast as possible and is a form of race snowboarding (see below).
Often misunderstood, freeride snowboarding is not just about riding off-piste, as per the Freeride World Tour. The real definition of freeride snowboarding is using the whole mountain to ride freely – so snowboarding how you want.
Ever seen snowboarders that seem to flow down the hill, merging the piste with off-piste and popping tricks all over the place? Well you have witnessed freeride snowboarding.
To be honest most of us freeride all the time, but pros on the FWT just do it much bigger and better! Read this freestyle vs freeride snowboarding article to better understand this style of snowboarding.
Freestyle snowboarding is the collective term for the different snowboard disciplines that are all about doing tricks. This is often in the park or half pipe, but can be anywhere on any feature from which you can express yourself.
Of the different snowboarding styles it is the most creative. Freestyle includes big air, park, jibbing, street, half pipe and ground tricks.
Ground trick snowboarding combines buttering, carving and freestyle to create inventive tricks off the ground. Usually done on the piste in relatively flat terrain, ground tricks are a fun type of snowboarding that makes less interesting areas more exciting.
The halfpipe is one of the most recognisable competitive types of snowboarding. Big in the Winter Olympics and X-Games it is a great spectator sport.
Riding down a U shaped track, snowboarders boost huge air and spectacular tricks. Or if you are like me tiny air, catching the lip and hurting yourself.
Rather than using normal snowboard boots, hardbooters use hard plastic shelled boots. They are similar to, but not the same as, ski boots. Some hardbooters use ski boots.
Hardboot snowboarding is mainly done on carving and race-oriented snowboards. The stance is usually very forward facing, often with shoulders across the board rather than parallel to it.
This type of snowboarding is all about speed and carving the perfect line.
In some circles, Hardbooting and Alpine snowboarding (see above) are the same thing.
If you have deep pockets, or a credit card you don’t mind maxing out, then you can pay for a helicopter to drop you off in virgin powder. This is the ultimate snow fantasy of most snowboarders – just thinking about it makes me want to wax my board…
Jibbing is a form of freestyle snowboarding, that involves performing tricks on objects that will hurt more than snow when – not if – you hit them. Rails, boxes, logs, benches, concrete, rocks, cars – the list is endless as are the possible injuries.
One of the more obscure types of snowboarding, noboarding is snowboarding without bindings. Instead you have a bungee cord running from tip to tail which you hold onto and a non slip surface to stand on.
This is one of the few styles of snowboarding that can’t be done on a normal setup. Although you could easily DIY a noboard, but it would not be interchangeable.
As soon as you leave the designated slopes you are snowboarding off-piste. This covers many different types snowboard disciplines including backcountry, freeride, heli boarding etc. It is simply snowboarding on un-pisted terrain.
When snowboarding first hit the slopes there was no such thing as snowparks. These days most ski resorts have a park and many of them go to town creating an incredible playground for us Shaun White wannabes.
Features include kickers (jumps) that vary from tiny to the size of houses, plus rails and boxes of all shapes and sizes. You usually get features for beginners, intermediates and experts so anyone have a go.
Riding powder is the purest form of snowboarding. Even the most dedicated of park rats will dig out their powder board, or move their bindings back, if there is a fresh dump of snow.
Powder snowboarding usually takes place off-piste, but fresh tracks on the piste after snowfall can be amazing. When there is fresh snow you’ll be smiling boardly (sorry that is terrible) all day.
There are various types of snowboard racing including slalom, dual slalom and boardercross (see above). The slalom snowboard disciplines are racing through gates usually using a freecarver/hardboot set up (see above).
Performed in a park environment slopestyle is a competitive snowboard discipline. Riders perform tricks while moving through the course using
rails and kickers to score points. You get more points for difficult tricks, nice style and a smooth error free run.
History says that the snurfer was the first form of snowboarding. Like noboarding there were no bindings, you stood on a piece of wood that’s curved up at the front using a piece of sting to steer. Hardcore!
Snurfing was pretty much laid to rest by advances in the many different snowboard disciplines. However, there has been a nostalgia induced upturn in popularity due to Burton releasing a throwback snurfer.
Feel the need for speed? Think turning is cheating? Then speed snowboarding is for you. Setting off on top of a steep, dead straight slope you go as fast as possible.
The current record in a hardboot setup is 203 kph (126 mph) by Frenchman Edmond Plawczyk. The fastest in a normal soft boot setup is by Brit Jamie Barrow who went 151.6 kph (94.2 mph), this is also the British record in any setup.
This is a relatively new snowboard discipline that is a huge growth area. Splitboarding uses a snowboard that can be split in half to create two skis. Why, you may ask, would you wish to do that?
Well with skins attached to the bottom of the skis you can ski tour/skin your way into the backcountry and up mountains to find untouched snow. Of all the different styles and types of snowboarding this is the best one for getting into the backcountry under your own steam.
Tearing up the mountain is one thing but riding in an urban setting is a whole other ball – or should I say board – game. It is all about using features such as stairs, rails, bridges, roofs and anything interesting to do tricks.
Street snowboarders get creative and perform freestyle tricks in skateboard inspired environments. It can be rather dangerous, and you’ll get through boards quicker than a toddler gets through crayons.
Snowboarding types and styles: Conclusion
So there you have it 28 different snowboard disciplines. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments which types of snowboarding you prefer, and any snowboard styles we have missed.
Snowboarding is all one big family and we should embrace and encourage the different styles of snowboarding. Honestly if you want to cruise the slopes without pushing yourself that is fine. But if you catch me doing that please confiscate my snowboard.
Well I hope you enjoyed this guide to the 28 different snowboard disciplines. Make sure you check out our snowboarding holiday discounts as you could save a fortune on your next trip.