America's Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller claimed the silver and bronze medals, respectively, while Norway's Kjetil Jansrud took home the gold.
This medal mattered to Miller. Not so much because the win makes the 36-year-old the oldest Alpine medalist in Olympic history. Or even because he now owns six medals in all, the second-highest total for a male ski racer and tied for second among U.S. Winter Olympians in any sport.
The last year has been difficult for Miller. His younger brother, Chelone, died in April 2013. Bode was also involved in a custody fight for his infant son, and he had to bounce back from left knee surgery and return to the Alpine apex.
"It's almost therapeutic for me to be in these situations, where I really had to test myself, so I was happy to have it be on the right side of the hundredths," said Miller, who grew up in New Hampshire and is now based in California. "Some days ... medals don't matter, and today was one of the ones where it does."
He wiped away tears in the finish area after someone mentioned Chelone, a charismatic snowboarder who was 29 and hoping to make the U.S. team in Sochi when he died of what was believed to be a seizure.
"Everything felt pretty raw and pretty connected," Miller said, "so it was a lot for me."
Meantime, women's snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis now has second-, fifth- and seventh-place finishes in her three Olympic trips.
Far ahead of the other five riders in her semifinal heat on a sunny, slushy afternoon at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Jacobellis misjudged the second-to-last turn on the course, flew over a jump too fast, lost her balance and skidded onto her back.
She raised her hands for leverage as she skittered into the middle of the course, hoping the momentum might pull her back to her feet. But the snow was too soft and Jacobellis was stuck. She moved to the side and trudged down the hill, snowboard in hand.
"It's how the wheel turns," she said. "It just so happened not to work out. It's hard to accept that."
Eva Samkova won the women's snowboardcross, taking the first gold of the games for the Czech Republic.
The Netherlands is on top with 17 overall medals, knocking the U.S. out of its momentary lead and utting Team USA in a two-way with Russia at 16 medals. However, Germany has claimed seven gold medals so far, the most gold medals of any country. Total they have won 12 medals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.