Freestyle Skiing at the Winter Olympics
Freestyle skiing is one of the X-game events of the Winter Olympics. In freestyle skiing, competitors perform in a variety of events that go beyond just going from the top of the hill to the bottom. Freestyle skiing takes the best part of technical skiing and combines that with the tricks from snowboarding to create a fun new winter sport.
Freestyle skiing has been around since the 1930’s when skiers began showing off and performing tricks for their friends. The first competitions began in the late 1960’s. The flashy sport was considered just too dangerous for most mainstream sports enthusiasts. Hot-doggers were often banned from resorts. Its inherent danger also caused a lot of resistance to including it as an Olympic sport.
The International Ski Federation finally recognized the sport in 1979 in an effort to regulate the dangerous sport and prevent people from creating even more dangerous tricks and elements for the sport. Freestyle skiing joined the Winter Olympics in 1992. Moguls were added in 1992 and aerials in 1994.
Freestyle skiers typical use skis that have a tip at both ends. These twin tip skis allow the skier to ski both forwards and back, which helps them land more stunts than are possible with traditional skis.
In aerial skiing, the competitor glides down a relatively short hill and over a jump reaching heights of 40-50 feet. The skier will perform a variety of twists and flips before landing. Each trick has been assigned a specific degree of difficulty. Skiers are scored on four things: take off, height, landing, and form during the jump. That score is then multiplied by the degree of difficulty for the total score to determine the winner.
Each skier performs two jumps during qualifications. The top 16 competitors move on to the medal round in reverse order to how they placed during the qualifying round.
A mogul course is a steep hill covered in large mounds. The skier will race down the hill choosing one of the available lines (there are typically 3-4 to choose from). The mounds require the competitor to make rapid direction changes with their lower body while the upper body remains facing straight down the hill. Along the course there are two larger bumps (1 near the top and 1 near the bottom. These mounds are large enough to give the skier a lot of lift. Skiers are required to perform two jumps, such as flips, twists, or spins.
The tricks are scored by two “air” judges who are looking for degree of difficulty, form and height. This is a timed event so the skiers’ goal is to complete the moguls and the tricks as quickly as possible. The “air” score is combined with the run time to give the skier a points total.
Everyone participates in the qualifying round and then the top 20 skiers move to the medal round. The winner is the person with the highest score in the final round.
Ski cross is a carryover event from traditional skiing. The skiers will race down a course that contains turns, banking, straight-aways, and obstacles. This is a mass start event so 4 skiers will go at a time. The mass start nature of this race lends itself to a lot of excitement and narrow misses as racers vie for position.
The idea is to be the fastest person down the track so there is a lot of passing and maneuvering around obstacles to gain position. The skiers can choose which obstacles they go over as long as they stay on the course and don’t interfere with each other.
There are many heats in this event (up to 5) in order to narrow down the field. In each round, the two fastest skiers move on to the next round. There are two final rounds (one to determine 5th through 8th place and then a medal round that determines 1st through 4th place).