Learning how to snowboard fast can have a big impact on your confidence levels when advancing in the sport. How fast you can get down the mountain depends on the weather and snow conditions and the difficulty level of a slope. Your equipment and snowboarding ability as well as your body weight also has an influence on your speed.
How fast can you snowboard? A typical confident rider averages between 20 and 30 mph on a blue run with speed bursts reaching up to 40 mph on steep sections. Those gunning to hit top speed could reach above 55 mph on a steep groomer. Olympic athletes can ride at speeds as high as 70 mph during parallel slalom races.
Some professional snowboarders hit terminal velocity when jumping off cliffs. On the other hand, riders powering through flat or uphill patches and riding along cat tracks generally feel confident riding at 25 mph.
How fast is fast on a snowboard?
While averaging 25 mph is the norm for weekend riders, those in the top-percentile can reach speeds between 45 and 60 mph before they begin to lose control.
How fast you ride has a lot to do with the snow conditions. Hard-pack groomed snow on a steep run with minimal wind would be optimal conditions to attempt reaching your top speed. In general, riders ride 5.2 mph faster when weather and conditions are prime.
Capable riders are often able to do high speed open carves at around 40 mph. By tucking their body inwards and lowering their centre of gravity, some can reach even higher speeds of 60 mph or above.
If your line is constantly interrupted with other riders or bumps and trees, however, you will struggle to pass the 45 mph limit.
Crashing at 45 mph can be dangerous and you’ll want to avoid reaching a speed where you lose control and catch an edge, especially around other people.
How to go faster on a snowboard
What’s the secret to going faster on a snowboard? Here are a few tips shared by top snowboarders.
Pick an appropriate run
You’ll be able to gain a lot of speed on a steep, uncrowded run with a firm (even icy) snow pack. On the other hand, fluffier snow naturally slows down a snowboard. The less friction you have on the base of your board, the better.
Learn quick stopping
For snowboarding fast, the first thing you should learn is coming to a sudden stop. This is essential when riding freestyle on slopes among other riders.
Forward leaning stance
Gaining speed requires you to shift your weight over your front foot into a forward leaning stance. A good rule of thumb is to put 65% of your body weight on your front foot and the remaining 35% on your back foot.
Opening up your turns will help you keep your board pointing downhill and will increase your overall speed. Especially when you’re looking to maintain speed on cat tracks and flat roads, you will need to keep your carve shape as open as possible.
Narrow cat tracks, on the other hand, have limited room to manoeuvre and it is important to stay in control.
Transitioning from edge to edge
As mentioned, the less friction on the bottom of your board, the faster you will be able to go. Carving between edges is much faster than skidding and involves a lot less friction.
You will need to confidently and assertively dig your edges in to limit contact of the base of your board with the snow.
Lover your gravity center
Stay low over your snowboard by tucking your body in and putting your arms behind your back. This helps increase a rider’s aerodynamism and reduces air-drag.
Your board and hips should be aligned and your head and shoulders should be facing the direction you’re traveling in. This will keep your board and body weight pointing straight down the fall-line of the hill.
Get a stiffer board
Equipment wise, a stiffer and longer board with a freshly waxed base will allow you to go a lot faster.
Stiffer boards are more responsive and can make it more comfortable to ride at speed, and longer boards have more edge contact with the snow which is great for distributing your weight more equally.
The Jones Flagship is a good example of a stiffer snowboard that can help you achieve higher speeds.
How fast do Olympic snowboarders go?
The speed an Olympic racer rides at depends on wind and snow conditions. The fastest snowboarding record was broken in 2015 by a parallel slalom racer at 126 mph.
Parallel slalom is an Olympic race which, although termed as a type of snowboarding, does not resemble traditional snowboarding much at all. In slalom events, competitors ride on long narrow slalom boards with their feet and bodies facing forwards.
They wear hard boots similar to ski boots and have stiff plate bindings. In competition these riders also wear tightly fitted spandex suits to improve their aerodynamics. Typically, these racers average about 70 mph during a race.
Snowboard cross, aka boardercross, is another snowboarding racing event. A typical cross course is narrow and dotted with obstacles such as jumps, flat sections and rollers designed to test the competitors ability to stay in control at speed. These riders average between 55 and 60 mph while racing.
In other Olympic snowboarding events such as slopestyle, big air and halfpipe events, speed is not the main objective but is very useful to gain momentum for jumps and rails. These events are more about technique and control.
Do skiers or snowboarders go faster?
Skiers are able to go a lot faster than snowboarders. The top skier speed is recorded at 157 mph whereas the top snowboarding speed was topped at 126 mph.
Typically, skiers ride an average of 3.5 mph faster than snowboarders. Downhill skiers average between 40 and 50 mph and can reach speeds above 80 mph in the right conditions. Regular weekender skiers hit top speeds of around 55 mph vs 43 mph for snowboarders.
Although both sports rely on gravity to get you down the mountain, there are simple reasons why skiers are able to go faster.
Snowboard vs ski stance
Skiers have an advantage for speed because they naturally face forwards. With two separate decks under their feet, they can gun down a run using minimal edges.
In contrast, snowboarders have a side-on position and have to shift their center of gravity between their toe and heel edges to avoid sliding out, which creates more friction.
The asymmetrical snowboarding form means that snowboarders have a lot more drag. Skiers are able to tuck down and reduce their resistance to air. It’s more difficult for a snowboarder to reach consistently high speeds because of this sideways stance.
Snowboard vs ski gear
Downhill racing skis are a lot longer than the average snowboard. A shorter board typically causes more wobble at high speeds.
Also, the typical skier will wear a tight fitting ski outfit whereas snowboarders often feel more comfortable in baggier gear. Clothing drag is a big factor in slowing snowboarders down.
GPS tracker apps for measuring snowboard speed
There are a range of mobile apps you can use to monitor your speed and progress on the hill. These apps factor in weather reports and snow conditions and are able to record your run speeds, routes, calories burnt and distances ridden. A few examples:
This is one of the top pioneering apps for GPS tracking and is still one of the best around. Ski Tracks analyses your runs and routes using maps, charts and tables to show you your progress and activity.
Slopes, Trace Snow, My Tracks, Ludicrous Speed
These apps track your average and top speeds, verticals and your distances ridden. They work using voice commands so you can activate them without taking your phone out. You can even track the amount of calories you burn over a day.
This app gives you detailed information about different resorts, mountain maps, special prices and lift ticket offers.
Final words of advice
Going past 30mph on a snowboard can be hard to control if you’re not experienced enough. When going fast and pointing straight down a hill, always look as far ahead as you can to spot unpredictable obstacles such as snow bumps and other riders.
And of course, avoid trying to surpass your top speed on a crowded weekend!