The Type of Snowboarding Styles
Freeriding is snowboarding using the natural terrain of the mountain for recreation, without focusing on technical tricks or racing. Snowboarders that aspire to be freeriders will explore the mountain through trees, in powder bowls or anywhere else they feel comfortable riding. Freeriding is also known as all-mountain snowboarding. A variant of freeriding focusing on extremely difficult lines is known as extreme snowboarding or big mountain snowboarding.
Freeride snowboarding, where the focus is on riding cleanly and enjoying the freedom to go and explore anywhere is influenced significantly by surfing. Many freeride purists attach an almost spiritual connotation to carving down the mountain. The Freeriding is mostly for periods of relaxation, due to the relative "calmness" one feels going down a slope at one's own speed.
Freestyle snowboarding is the practice of doing different kinds of tricks on a snowboard. Tricks can either occur on the ground (e.g. jibbing, bonking, grinding, pressing, buttering etc.) or in the air (e.g. spins, flips, grabs). Freestyle snowboarders typically use shorter boards and softer boots than other snowboarders, as the shorter board length reduces the weight and moment of inertia. This process makes it easier to spin, maneuver, and the softer boots make the board more forgiving to control for the particular demands of freestyle riding. This gives boarders slower speeds, high landing impacts, quick turns, and imperfect landings. Softer boards allow the snowboarder to press, or butter, with ease, but many freestyle snowboarders, especially halfpipe riders, use stiff boards that have a lot of "pop" to allow them to jump higher and absorb hard landings.
Most pure freestyle/jib boards are twin-tipped, in that the tip and the tail are of equal length and stiffness. The bindings are located in the center of the board. A freeride board has a tail which is slightly shorter and stiffer than the nose. This design can make turn initiation more forgiving and help float the tip in powder and variable snow. Conversely, riding a twin-tipped board makes it easier to land switch and compensate for changing riding conditions. Softer boots and boards also allow riders more flexibility in body movement. The ability to reach very convoluted or stretched out, stylish body positions Known as tweaks.
Freestyle snowboarders often 'detune' or dull the edges of their snowboards so as not to catch them on rails or boxes when jibbing. One exception is in the half-pipe, where an edge hold can be critical.
Freestyle snowboarding is arguably the most popular discipline, and is certainly the focus of most of the lifestyle marketing in the snowboarding industry. Freestyle is probably most demanded because of the thrill. Freestyle snowboarding can be done almost anywhere that has snow.Freestyle snowboarding is influenced greatly by skateboarding. Many ski resorts operate terrain parks which often simulate the urban skateboard environment, complete with halfpipes, handrails, boxes, and machine-formed jumps.
Alpine snowboarding is the practice of turning by carving the snowboard (such that the board turns by using the radius sidecut of the edge), as opposed to skidding the snowboard (where the board is traveling in a different direction than it is pointing). Both traditional snowboard racers (though not necessarily boardercross racers) and recreational carvers are alpine snowboarders.
Alpine riders use hard plastic snowboarding boots, which resemble ski boots, except that they tend to be less stiff in the ankles and have a shortened heel, to minimize hanging over the edge of the snowboard. They tend to angle their feet much more forward than other snowboarders, and also ride narrower boards. Alpine boards are usually, but not always, longer and much stiffer than freeride boards, as the particular demands of carving usually require as much usable edge length as possible. The hard plastic boots stiffens the ankle joint up significantly, making it more difficult to make small ankle adjustments while making skid turns, but making the board much more stable and powerful at higher speeds and the much higher y-forces typically felt by an alpine snowboarder in carved turns.
An analogy made by some alpine enthusiasts is that freeride and freestyle snowboards are like dirt bikes, and alpine/carving snowboards are like road bikes.
This type of boarding started out with fresh powder-craving snowboarders who, most likely, didn't have the cash to spend at crowded upscale ski parks. In fact, before snowboarding was allowed at resorts, this was the only form of snowboarding; Jake Burton, one of the original pioneers of snowboarding, never even considered resorts; backcountry was what he envisioned as the future of snowboarding. Today, backcountry snowboarding is often for those who have enough cash to afford trips to Alaska or the mountain ranges of the West, to ride outside resorts. Donning snowshoes or a split-board with skins, the backcountry snowboarder cuts a new path up the side of the mountain in search of the very best vistas and untouched snow. Some of those more cash-endowed riders can even hire snowcats or helicopters to take them where they want to go; this is known as catboarding or heliboarding respectively.
Powder is arguably the most enjoyable type of snow to ride in. The feeling of plowing through it is quite satisfying and some have even described riding powder as "floating on clouds". While powder is a lot of fun and the reason why many people even bother to snowboard, it's unpredictable and demands more balance to ride well. It's also advantageous to ride longer boards and move your stance back from center in powder. In powder, it is important to keep the nose above the surface of the snow at all times to stay afloat. Powder is also not as responsive as other types of snow because it's a lot lighter and softer. The board's edge does not cut through the snow as easily. For this reason, riding in powder requires a more upright posture during turns than with harder snow.
A split-board, which if commonly used for snowboarding in the backcountry, is a snowboard cut in half along its length. When apart, the two halves can be used like cross-country skis to ascend a hill. When the snowboarder is ready to descend, the halves are attached, and the bindings are repositioned for a snowboarding stance. Without a split-board, snowboarders who want to experience backcountry terrain, bear a little extra burden by carrying their snowboards with a backpack and using snowshoes or cross country skis to ascend.
Snowboarders also use snowmobiles to ride in the backcountry. If the hill is too steep a snowmobile may not make it up the hill. Often snowboarders use snowmobiles to make jumps into the powder.
Safety is key when hiking and riding in the backcountry, especially after a fresh 'dump' of powder. Snow can be extremely unstable, often leading to avalanches. Backcountry riders are advised to take extreme caution in all conditions, to carry avalanche equipment including a probe, beacon, and shovel, and never to ride alone in the backcountry. Avalanche equipment can be purchased or rented at outdoor equipment stores. Courses in avalanche safety are also available.