Snowboard Cross also known as Boardercross or BX, is a sport whose growth has been fueled by technology. According to the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) membership in BX has doubled since 2010 (Barica, 2015).
In the last few years boardercross has also seen a rise in fan attendance at USASA and USSA sponsored events, thanks in part to advancements in technology, like time analysis and retrieval, sponsorships, and course design. These advances have made the sport much more interactive with its growing fan base.
Technology has influenced the world of boardercross in a number or areas, from course design to athlete sponsorships. The latest breakthroughs have come from the advent of smart phones, Wi-Fi, and computer based modeling, which enabled course designers to develop safer, more enjoyable racecourses for athletes. As a result, Boardercross has become a more spectator-friendly sport. Social media also has helped bring the sport into a more intimate space for athletes, spectators and sponsors to interact.
What is Snowboard Cross?
Snowboard Cross is not a sport for the faint of heart. In a typical race, four and six snowboarders will race simultaneously on a downhill racecourse with a series of jumps, turns, and obstacles. The competitors not only have to contend with the course, but also with each other. Racers on race day have a full day ahead of them. Starting with a couple warm up runs to get acquainted with the course. Then there are two time trails to see what bracket you will be in to race the upcoming heats. At the top of the racecourse athletes work with coaches and wax technicians to prepare for time trails and upcoming heats. The longer the racecourse the more fun it is for racers, an average course takes one minute to complete, start to finish line. This will be an all day event for the athlete and if they do well in time trails they will race the racecourse about six times that day. Originally conceived in 1991 in British Columbia, it has been a staple at the Winter X Games, and made it’s Winter Olympics debut in Toronto, Italy in 2006. Today more than 689 snowboarders participate in Boardercross events each year in Colorado alone (Krahulec, 2015). Here is a Go Pro filming the racecourse at the 2013 World Cup race in Telluride, Colorado.
Technology Improves the Racing Experience
Boardercross requires many elements to be both successful and safe. The danger lies in the sport’s high speed and proximity of the racers. A competitor will race next to up to five other people, and crashes are not uncommon. The courses are very technical, and the chance of a wreck is high with each race. As a result, injuries in the sport are inevitable, and most athletes are prepared to endure some sort of injury at some point in their career.
Using topographical information derived from computers, designers are now building safer courses. The mathematical nature of each design also aids in the fluidity of each course for the racers, which also makes for a more fun race for the participants.
Over time, the accuracy of scoring, the safety of racecourses, and the exposure level of athletes has been on the rise. For example, USASA has recently experienced an evolution in score keeping and in the timing of the races. Paul Krahulec pioneered a way to use a small man made computer for judges to input the athletes times and make them available instantly via the USASA application for mobile devices that Karhulec invented.
Stephen Thein is a coach and wax technician, and is one of the foremost experts in the Boardercross world. Thein organized his team, called Team Kick Ass, in 2012, and works closely with his athletes and with the organizers of the sport, the USASA and USSA. He has guided numerous athletes to become successful members of the United States of America Snowboard team.
Thein has seen technology’s effect on the sport of boardercross over the last five years. In this interview he discusses some of the latest technological advances in Boardercross.
(Stephen Thein, Expert Boardercross Wax Technician Oct, 2015)
Paul Krahulec, is an IT leader and head organizer of the USASA and the Rocky Mountain Regions boardercross events. Krahulec designed a breakthrough application that allows the spectators and judges to see the times of each racer accurately and immediately. In the past racers and spectators would see race times on a board located only at the bottom of the racecourses. Krahulec’s application allows the judges to use small computers to input the rcaers’ times, and spectators and coaches can use an application on any mobile device to receive this data as it becomes available.
In this video Krahulec talks about how his innovations have taken interactivity of boardercross to a whole new level for competitors.
(Paul Krahulec, Head Organizer of USASA, Oct.2015)
Social Media and Sponsorship
Social media platforms also help promote the sport by keeping the community of boardercross athletes in touch. For example, athletes preparing for an upcoming race in Vermont can get online and see what a course will be like, who will be there, what exercises can help the athlete prepare for the race, and even how to dress, just by following recommendations by experts on social media platforms.
Sponsorship is the key element for professional athletes. Boardercross is an expensive snow sport. An average race season can cost up to $10,000 to participate for one season. That includes paying for travel, coaches, wax technicians, equipment, and entry fees. So when they get a sponsor that can help with equipment and expenses, the athletes have some financial cushion.
In today’s world of social media sponsorships are becoming less tedious and more accessible. Real-time sharing of photos and video helps athletes with exposure and that helps the brands that are supporting those athletes. Gone are the days of, “beating the streets,” in favor of multiple social media platforms doing the promoting for you.
Utilizing real-time sharing on platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can help an athlete gain a larger audience then ever before.
Miranda Barcia, a racer in the sport for a decade, talks about social media influences she has witnessed over the last few years.
(Miranda Barcia, BX Athlete Feb, 2016)
The Future of Boardercross
A new generation of young athletes are growing up in a new era for Snowboard Cross. Families and friends of these new athletes can be a better part of their journey. Technology is also aiding in the safety of the sport for athletes, as well as the accuracy and accessibility of the statistics.
As Boardercross grows each year, social media platforms aid this exposure. More people getting involved means more money to go around, and that means a better experience for athletes their sponsors and their fans.
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