Into the stiff, streamlined repertoire of the International Ski Federation came snowboarding, which made its Olympic debut in 1998. Since then, it's grown to include three different events -- parallel giant slalom, halfpipe and snowboard cross -- that show range and a wealth of skill.
With a cast of chill daredevils, the snowboarding events stole the show in Turin four years ago. From high-flying halfpipe routines, to controversial crashes on the snowboard cross course, the sport translates well to television. And the youthful appeal of the athletes show they are as much fun off the snow as they are careening down on it. Across the three events, there seems to be something for everybody: The tournament-style parallel GS is unpredictable; the halfpipe is a course in showmanship; and snowboard cross has speed and a douse of contact to keep it exciting.
Since the halfpipe event was added to the program in '98, Team USA has been dominant, winning 10 of the possible 18 medals awarded. That trend will most certainly continue in Vancouver given the U.S.' stacked women's team. Watch for
Pearce, who had his own halfpipe built by Nike, decided to share his with some of the sport's elite riders, forming a clique called Frends (no "I," naturally). Pearce, however, sustained a devastating head injury in late December and will be absent in Vancouver. As will Frend
Snowboarding, and more specifically White, are ratings magnets. NBC saw 23.2 million viewers watch White's victory, which was 3.3 million more than the average for the Games.