This is one event you definitely won’t want to miss.
Ski and snowboard slopestyle sends competitors one at a time down a terrain park constructed out of snow, filled with massive jumps and metal rails. It’s only the second time this event has been showcased on a world stage, as it made its debut at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The competitors get two qualifying runs, and two final runs to show off their best, most creative, and most athletic tricks to the judges. The highest single run score wins in the finals.
The competitors have three rail sections, and three jumps continuously linked in each run.
Unlike the other freestyle disciplines, like aerials and moguls, where conforming to a rigid expectation of what the judge’s demand puts you ahead of the pack, slopestyle skiing – in a testament to its X-Games roots – is inherently creative and forces riders to think outside-of-the-box.
Take a look at the insane course below, courtesy of US Snowboard Team member Ryan Stassel’s Instagram:
Here’s an overall image of the entire course, showing the three rail sections, and the three jump sections.
Look for the riders to bring their imagination and get seriously creative on the rail sections.
Watch out for Oystein Braaten, the 22-year-old Norwegian skier, to throw down some of the most technical tricks in the rail section. Braaten’s a heavy favourite to take the gold in ski slopestyle.
For the skiers, the judges will want to see the riders spinning on, and off, the rails in both directions, and using their edges and the flex profile of their skis and boards to control their slide with style.
This is where skiers like Sweden’s 26-year old Henrik Harlaut – one of the most creative of the bunch – will showcase their style by choosing unique lines through the course.
Here, the riders have a jump option, or they can slide on the curved rail to the right, or the flat-down (named for the shape of the rail) on the left.
On the jumps, expect the riders to send 50 to 60-foot airs — skiing or snowboarding backward — while completing up to four inverted rotations before they come down to Earth. The judges will also want to see unique grabs that separate the skiers and boarders from the pack.
On the snowboard side, keep an eye out 18-year old Norwegian Marcus Kleveland, to throw his signature quad cork 1800 – that is, for the uninitiated, four off-axis rotations plus five spins in one jump.
Here’s a closer view of the jumps where you can really see how large they are. The riders have multiple options for hitting these, on the left, right, or middle.
26-year-old American Gus Kenworthy – a silver medalist in 2014 – also has a chance to win it all this year. The US team swept the podium last time around, but the gold medalist in 2014, Joss Christensen, didn’t qualify this year after suffering a torn ACL.
More difficult, stylish grab combinations can result in a higher score, but often slow down the skier’s or boarder’s ability to rotate.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t call out 20-year old Canadian Evan McEachern, who joined Canada’s national slopestyle team at the tender age of 14.
Another up-and-comer to watch out for is Japan’s 16-year-old Taisei Yamamoto. He’s got a couple more Olympics in him.
The judges decide their scores based on a combination of overall impression, and individual trick scores, with the individual tricks counting slightly more (60% – 40%).
Here’s the schedule for all the slopestyle events if you want to tune in to see it all go down:
Saturday, February 10:
Snowboarding – Men’s slopestyle qualifying – 1.00 a.m GMT / 8.00 p.m ET (Friday evening)
Sunday, February 11:
Snowboarding – Men’s slopestyle final, women’s slopestyle – 1.00 a.m GMT / 8.00 p.m ET
Monday, February 12:
Snowboarding – Women’s slopestyle final, women’s halfpipe qualifying
Saturday, February 17:
Freestyle Skiing – Women’s slopestyle qualifying, final
Sunday, February 18:
Freestyle Skiing – Men’s slopestyle qualifying, final
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