What Is Urban Snowboarding? (Full Guide)

Are you bored of the monotony of skiing in the same park each season, with the same uninspiring features? If you’re looking for a snowboarding discipline where your imagination is the only limiting factor, it’s time you heard about urban snowboarding.

Urban snowboarding is the act of using prebuilt structures to pull off snowboarding tricks. That often means choosing a location and pulling off a single trick or multiple tricks through the streets. With urban snowboarding, you do need to be respectful of those around you and their property.

Urban snowboarding is not like snowboarding on a mountain. There are a few things to understand about this sport so you can stay safe and make the most of your urban snowboarding sessions. We walk you through everything you need to know below.

What Is Urban Snowboarding?

Urban snowboarding, also known as street snowboarding, is a type of snowboarding where you make use of urban structures found around town for riding and completing tricks. It can also be thought of as snowboarding anywhere that can be snowboarded.

Most of the time, not even the weather is a limiting factor. You see, while shredding the mountain will need a fair amount of snow for ski patrol to open it, but the towns down below are always open. That means even the smallest amount of snowfall can be utilized and turned into a feature.

Urban snowboarding takes a lot of bravery. Attempting a rail, or jump, in an urban setting can be far riskier than it would be at the local snow park. Therefore, you must have a certain mindset for this kind of snowboarding. You use the environment to your advantage, incorporating structures like stairs, rails, or drops. The only limit is your imagination. That, and your skill, of course.

Is Urban Snowboarding Dangerous?

Urban snowboarding can be dangerous if you do not take the proper precautions. As with any snow sport, there are steps you can take to increase your safety. However, there are a few dangers specific to urban snowboarding that you must be aware of. The environment itself adds potential danger.

It’s A Snow Park With Less Snow

In any ski resort, the snow park is one of the most dangerous areas because of the man-made structures. Now imagine those purposely built features that are still hard to pull tricks on, take away most of the snow, and add in a lot of concrete. That’s what you’ll often be working with in urban snowboarding.

With all the man-made structures and concrete, there will rarely be a soft area of snow to fall on. This makes this type of snowboarding dangerous as a fall or failed trick in this environment could lead to serious injury. Keep in mind that going early on or very late in the season may result in even less snow, and therefore, less cushion on the ground.

Cars And Pedestrians

Unlike snowboarding on the mountain, you won’t have to look out for other boarders and skiers. However, in this environment you will have to be constantly vigilant for pedestrians and passing cars. Pedestrians will not be able to move out of the way very quickly and can be easily injured. Cars, on the other hand, move very quickly and could cause serious damage to you.

When urban snowboarding, staying aware of your surroundings is vital for staying out of danger. Watch where you are going and constantly check for oncoming traffic. If you aren’t careful, your snowboarding session could end with a trip to the hospital.

9 Tips For Urban Snowboarding

1. Scout A Great Location

The single most important tip for urban snowboarding is to pick a good location. That means not only finding a place with suitable entry and exit for your trick but also, ideally, out of the way from pedestrians and vehicles. It is also preferred to find a decent place for some action shots.

If you can visit a location before you go there with your gear, do it. Take a photo of it, print it out, and draw out your line just like the big mountain skiers do. Sure, it might be a short one, but visualizing the trick is half the battle and is bound to make your execution more successful.

It’s also important to note here that if you think you’ll cause damage to a location, or are currently causing damage, then stop and find somewhere more suitable. There are plenty of places around, so don’t force a spot that isn’t suitable for the activity.

2. Don’t Rush, Plan The Trick

As we’ve just talked about, planning a trick beforehand by physically drawing out your line is a great way to visualize what it is you’re about to do. However, even if you’ve scouted out a location and drawn the line for the trick, rushing to pull it off will only lead to disappointment.

Make sure you warm-up first. Consider attempting another trick that you are more comfortable with in the same spot first. You should only push yourself when you feel ready.This way, you are less likely to get injured. Keeping yourself in good condition means more chances to land the trick later.

That said, you can only prepare so much. At some point, you need to pluck up the courage to drop in and smash it. It’s important to recognize when fear is the only thing holding you back, and it happens more often than you might think.

3. Bring A Board You Can Wreck

If you’re popping on and off rails, and up and down stairs all day, your board is going to feel it. If that’s something you’re concerned about then it’s probably a good idea to pick up a second-hand board. That way you can focus on the tricks, rather than maintaining the condition of your board.

That’s not to say you can’t use your current snowboard. After all, that’s why wax and P-Tex were invented. These products can help protect your board if you choose to use it for this activity. Your decision will ultimately come down to price, convenience, and whether you care about a few scratches on your board.

4. Wear Safety Gear

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or an amateur snowboarder, always wear safety gear. It takes one person to crash into you on the mountain without wearing a helmet for disaster to strike. This point becomes even more important when we’re talking about the safety of urban snowboarding.

The number of physical obstructions there are in the cramped streets of the city are plentiful. At the very least, you should be wearing a helmet. Mouth, hand, and knee guards are additional protective gear you should consider depending on your skill level and desire for “street cred.” That said, street cred is not worth risking injury.

5. Don’t Go Alone

Just like when you’re snowboarding on a mountain, especially off-piste, you should not go alone. Not only is it far safer to ride with your friends, but it’s also more fun that way. Memories of snowboarding with your crew are something that will stay with you forever.

It’s also nice to board with a variety of different abilities. Usually, the difference between everyone’s urban snowboarding abilities will be bigger than up on the mountain. This allows for some great teachable moments and for people to sit out when they aren’t feeling it.

Having snowboarding companions is also beneficial for having someone to watch for obstructions, letting you know when it is safe to drop into a line, and being there in the event of an injury or emergency. It is safer and more fun to have others with you.

6. Get Into The Vibe

There’s a certain vibe with urban snowboarding that you just don’t get from other forms of snow sports. It’s hard to put your finger on if you haven’t been in that scene, but watch a few snowboarding movies from the early 2000s and you’ll get the idea. This vibe is part of the urban snowboarding experience, so relax and enjoy it.

It’s a very relaxed form of snowboarding that benefits hugely from the comradery and strong relationships formed between the snowboarding crew. The fact that you all come together to conquer a single feature in a town for hours or days until one of you lands means that it is unlike any other form of skiing or snowboarding.

Once again, that’s another reason to hit these spots with your friends and some good tunes. Even if you aren’t a great snowboarder, tag along with people who are, and you’ll be grinding rails in no time.

7. Keep A Low Profile If You’re In A Busy Area

It is all too easy to get too caught up in the music and the boarding and cause a disruption. Take care not to play offensive music, use offensive language, or otherwise be disrespectful. You want to prevent unwanted attention from locals and potentially authorities.

The more respectful you are at each location around town you hit, the more people will feel at ease with your presence and have no problem with you being there. If you’re asked to move on, then move on. Staying in that one spot isn’t worth having a bad reputation for many seasons to come.

8. Use A Bungee For Speed

Using a bungee, or “urban jibbing” as it’s sometimes called, provides enough speed to help complete a difficult trick. It’s often used for rails where the run-up is flat, but also has its place for riders picking up speed before a ramp.

You’re going to need a couple of friends to stretch the bungee almost to the limit, before handing it off to you on either side. If used properly, seconds later you’ll be thrown across the flat snow and be able to pull off that trick you’ve been attempting for so long.

9. Bring A Photographer

Getting shots of yourself or others on a mountain is a tricky thing to do. However, when you’re urban snowboarding it’s the perfect opportunity to get some incredible photos. If you’ve got a tripod, you can even do it by yourself, but having someone do it for you is usually preferred.

Show them your potential lines and what you’re planning to pull off, and then collaborate with them to get the best possible shots. It’s a good idea to have a photographer or friend who won’t be snowboarding to give ultimate freedom of movement to set up lights, flashes, and the camera.

Final Thoughts

Urban snowboarding is snowboarding in a town or city using man-made structures, like stairs and railings, to perform tricks. It is a perfect opportunity for snowboarders to challenge themselves in a different way. To enjoy this activity safely, go with friends and stay aware of your surroundings.