|LAKE PLACID, New York (Feb. 25) - The Visa U.S. Snowboarding Cup returns to Whiteface Mountain, outside of Lake Placid, for three competitions March 1-3. The lone U.S. World Cup stop for snowboardcross, parallel giant slalom and an exhibition team SBX race - a new event in snowboard competitions, marks the fourth consecutive year of the World Cup tour stopping in New York.|
Riders from all over the world will be on the mountain including U.S. stars such as the most dominant woman in SBX Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton Mountain, VT), snowboarding legend Shaun Palmer (Truckee, CA), Olympic medalists Seth Wescott (Carrabassett Valley, ME) and Chris Klug (Aspen, CO) as well as podium performers Tyler Jewell (Sudbury, MA), Adam Smith (Bend, OR) and Graham Watanabe (Boise, ID), who are just a few that will be tearing-up the course at Whiteface looking to win.
Here are seven things to know about snowboardcross and parallel giant slalom to get stoked for World Cup snowboarding.
SBX History in the Making
During the World Cup, Lake Placid will not only be hosting the only snowboardcross World Cup competition in the U.S., they'll also be providing spectators with a taste of the first team SBX competition. This sport is a snowboardcross race where two men and two women are paired in separate events. When one teammate crosses the finish line, it triggers the start gate at the top of the mountain for the other racer to begin.
"I Wanna Go Fast"
In two sports where speed is the king, athletes have to be prepared to haul down the mountain as fast as is humanly possible. The thought of going 40 to 45 mph would be intimidating for most mountain riders, but not for alpine athletes like Klug. "You get used to the speed, so it's not that scary unless you catch an edge," Klug said.
Creatures of Habit
Whether it's listening to a particular song or doing a few push-ups, most athletes have that little something they do before a race to get them ready to compete. Klug uses Mother Nature to give him a little jolt of energy. "Before I pull out of the start I put some snow on my neck to remind me it's go time," Klug said.
Others, like Tyler Jewell (Steamboat Springs, CO) go for something a little more relaxing. "I usually find a quiet place with a good view because in the end I look off in the distance and remind myself of how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing - traveling the world doing what I love, and this sets the tone for my day," Jewell said.
Not Your Average Snowboard
They might look very similar, but what athletes use for alpine racing and snowboardcross aren't like the snowboards one would normally strap into on an average snow day.
The typical alpine athlete rides on a more narrow and stiff board shaped for speed and carving. The boards are expensive and only a few companies make them so athletes typically have to look outside the U.S. to get their key piece of equipment. In alpine racing, riders also use an aggressive forward stance on their board and wear hardshell boots.
"I race on a 185 centimeter long giant slalom board. It's a lot stiffer and longer than my freestyle/freeride board. My boots are a plastic hardshell boot, laterally way stiffer than my softboots," Klug said. "Also mounted under my bindings are anti-vibration plates that raise me up off the board about an inch and provide additional dampening in the turns."
Snowboardcross athletes ride on a board more similar to freestyle boards than alpine riders do, but there are still some differences. For instance, snowboardcross boards usually have a base built for more speed and, in some cases, bigger riders use stiffer boards.
"I race SG Snowboards, which are faster, more expensive and much, much cooler than your average freeride or jib stick," Pat Holland (Tahoe City, CA) said. "SG uses high in-base materials that help the boards go faster. They are stiffer for stability in turns. A lot of research and design goes into these boards so they perform to the highest level on course."
Speed Suit v. Speed...
In two sports where the ultimate goal is to get to the bottom the fastest, there are also two very different approaches to wardrobe. According to U.S. Snowboarding Alpine Head Coach Steve Persons, wearing a speed suit has its definite advantages. "A speed suit can give you up to a half second in a PGS run," Persons said. A half second may not seem like much, but in a race where a win can be separated from fifth place by tenths of a second, every bit counts.
In snowboardcross, however, speed suits are not an option because, according to Holland, who said with a smile, "Nobody in this world would want to see four to six grown men racing within inches of each other wearing speed suits."
For the snowboardcross athlete, a slim fitting pant, jersey and protective body armor are the typical uniform.
Catch the action
Whether they're wearing a speed suit or slamming snow on their neck to get pumped up, the riders at the Visa U.S. Snowboarding Cup are going to be charging hard to come out on top of the pack. From snowboardcross to parallel giant slalom, it's a lot of action that no one should miss.
Friday, Feb. 29
- 9:30 a.m. men's snowboardcross qualifications
- 1:00 p.m. women's snowboardcross qualifications
Saturday, March 1
- 1:00 p.m. men's and women's snowboardcross finals
Sunday, March 2
- 1:00 p.m. men's and women's snowboardcross team event
Monday, March 3
- 9:00 a.m. men's and women's parallel giant slalom qualifications
-1:00 p.m. men's and women's parallel giant slalom finals
Relive the Lake Placid Snowboard Experience
Tune-in to NBC and Versus to see all the action again from the comfort of your couch.
NBC - One-hour show on Saturday, March 8 at 2 p.m. ET
Versus - Two-hour show on Sunday, March 9 at 3 p.m. ET