Snowboard cross, also known as boardercross, is a competitive downhill event where four snowboarders race simultaneously around a course designed to test their control of the board. The winner is the first across the finish line, and style and technique are not judged. Snowboarders must also fight each other, often bumping as they zip around the tight course. The sport was invented by Steven Rechshafner and Greg Stump, and the first event was held in 1991. Snowboard cross was included in the X-Games in 1997 and the Winter Olympics in 2006. The International Ski Federation has given it the official name snowboard cross.
Snowboard cross is the official name of the competitive downhill event most commonly known by snowboarders and extreme sports enthusiasts as boardercross. The sport is also known as boarder X, BX, or SBX and involves a group of snowboarders, usually four, competing simultaneously around a course designed to test the athletes’ control of the board. The winner is the first across the finish line, and unlike most snowboarding events, style and technique are not judged. In addition to the tight turns, moguls, drops, jumps, peaks and flats of the course itself, snowboard cross competitors also have to fight each other, and riders often bump as they zip around the tight course, meaning they’re often both battling for position and balance. The fast pace, crowd-pleasing jumps, and regular wipeouts make snowboard cross a popular spectator sport.
Steven Rechshafner, together with Greg Stump, the man who invented extreme sports, came up with the idea of creating a hybrid between snowboard and motocross, creating an event that tests speed and control as riders collide and they jostle for position. That motocross influence is perhaps most visible in the full-face helmets worn by racers. Stump’s business manager, John Graham, was responsible for coining and marketing the name’s border cross. In the spring of 1991, Rechshafner and Stump staged the world’s first snowboardcross event at Blackcomb Mountain in British Columbia, Canada as the finale of a television series Stump was filming for the Fox Network. Dan Donnelly, a professional snowboarder from Ferndale, Washington won the competition.
The sport has since grown in popularity. In 1997, the X-Games included snowboard cross for the first time, and the event has been featured annually since then. Electronic Arts, together with Rechshafner, created the very popular video game series “SSX” (Snowboard Supercross). These video games, first released in 2000, introduced a new mainstream audience to snowboard cross, although they featured over-the-top arcade-style action with impossible jumps and made no attempt to simulate the sport.
Just 15 years after the sport’s inception, 2006 saw the event’s inclusion in the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Seth Westcott of the United States and Tanja Frieden of Switzerland won the first men’s and women’s gold medals, respectively. The rules have been reinterpreted by the International Ski Federation (FIS), which oversees the Olympic event, to accentuate skill and finesse, notably limiting pushes between athletes to casual contact. Although most snowboarders still use the name boardercross to refer to the sport, the FIS has given it the official name snowboard cross.