Paralympic Winter Games
04 - 13 March

Sport Week: 10 things to know about Para Snowboard

The sport first featured at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in 2014 14 Feb 2022 By Lucy Dominy | For the IPC

Para Snowboard is set to once again amaze the world at Beijing 2022. Find out more about the Winter Paralympics’ youngest sport.

1. Athletes compete in two different events at the Paralympic Winter Games. Snowboard-cross is for the speed junkies while banked slalom also requires a high degree of technical prowess.

2. Snowboard-cross features a time trial of three runs down a course, one run and rider at a time. The fastest time determines the placement for the head-to-head brackets. The finals consist of two competitors per heat where the fastest rider to the finish advances. 

Ⓒ Samuel Andersen/Lillehammer 2021

3. In banked slalom, there is only one rider on the course at all times. Each one races three times, where the quickest run wins. The course may be a medium pitched slope. It should feature a naturally varying terrain, with plenty of bumps and dips, and ideally a U-shape/natural valley.

4. With the sport being so new, riders are emerging all the time, making it one of the most changeable disciplines on the Winter Paralympic programme. The USA’s Mike Schultz and the Netherlands’ Bibian Mentel-Spee currently share the most-decorated crown with three gold medals each.

Ⓒ Getty Images

5. Snowboarding has a surprisingly ancient history. According to local people, residents of a remote village in Turkey’s Kaçkar Mountains have been riding sideways on flat, rectangular boards for some 400 years to make travelling in deep snow easier. Known as a lazboard, a rope is attached near the front for balance and the rider uses a stick in their rear hand for steering. There are also stories of Austrian miners riding a similar device, known as a ruariser knappenroesser, at about the same time. 

6. Mentel-Spee is widely credited as being one of the key pioneers of Para Snowboard. Before she passed away in 2021, for nearly two decades the Dutchwoman worked to build the sport’s influence and reach at home and abroad despite several bouts of serious illness.

Ⓒ Getty Images

7. In 2014, Mentel-Spee became the first female Para Snowboard gold medallist, while the USA’s Evan Strong reached this feat in the men’s.

Ⓒ Luc Percival

8. Ten countries have won at least one Para Snowboard medal at just two editions of the Winter Paralympics in 2014 and 2018. The USA have won exactly half of all golds so far awarded – six.

Ⓒ Getty Images

9. Athletes compete in three categories based on their functional ability – SB-LL1 and SB-LL2 for lower-limb impaired riders and SB-UL for upper-limb impaired athletes. Snowboarders can use equipment such as orthopaedic aids.

10. Para Snowboard originally made its debut at Sochi 2014 as a discipline of alpine skiing with snowboard-cross, before being recognised as its own sport for PyeongChang 2018 when banked slalom was also added.