Modern day Snowboarding is completely different than what it first looked like in the 60's when the first "Snurfer" came around originally designed by Sherman Poppen in 1965. After this first toy came about which was little more than a skateboard without wheels steered by a hand held rope pioneering individuals came along to create what we would now recognize as a snowboard. Among these individuals the most famous person would have to be Jake Burton who created Burton snowboards. With each design snowboards grew lighter and more durable thanks to advancements in new composite materials and board construction.
Now snowboarding has well over 7 million participants in the world and continues to grow as a sport. Snowboarding is now one of the most highly anticipated events of the Winter Olympics after having only been officially recognized and placed in the Olympics in 1998.
Snowboarding has progressed considerably in the freestyle arena as half pipes grow larger and larger each year and jumps get bigger and bigger. There has also been an emphasis on using rails in snowboard parks which reminds me of the simliarities with Skateboarding
Slopestyle: is a style of competition which takes place in a snowboard park that has been outfitted with obstacles like boxes, rails and jumps and the objective of the competitor is to perform the most difficult tricks while displaying the best style at the same time. It's important to pick a good line in a Slopestyle competition as going after some parts of the course prevent you from reaching others (which is part of why it's so fun to watch these competitions - each rider does it differently). The key is to make sure you get a good mixture of tricks to include both rails and jumps.
Big Air: is just that - a competition focused on big air. The competition is always only one jump and is significantly larger than the jumps found in slopestyle competitions. Historically some brand new tricks were literally invented at Big Air competitions and they are a crowd favorite.
Half Pipe: Is probably the most widely known snowboard freestyle competition because of the popularity of the even t in the Olympics where Sean White has managed to take home back to back gold medals. The Half Pipe is cut out of the snow into a semi circle with each side equaling in height up to 22 feet high (Olympic level). The snowboarder enters the pipe and performs tricks while exiting the pipe on one side, landing and then moving onto the next side.
Snowboarding is an exciting sport and a great alternative to skiing. I personally skied for one year before moving onto Snowboarding which I've since done for over 15 years.