'14 Need To Knows: Freeskiing

By Paul D. Bowker | Dec. 11, 2013, 11 a.m. (ET)
Maddie Bowman spins above the halfpipe en route to winning the world cup during the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix at Park City Mountain on Feb. 2, 2013 in Park City, Utah.

Freeskiing includes halfpipe, slopestyle and skicross and is one of the fastest growing winter sports. After men’s and women’s skicross made its Olympic debut nearly four years ago in Vancouver, men’s and women’s halfpipe and slopestyle will join the Olympic family this February in Sochi. Halfpipe and slopestyle skiing are two of eight new disciplines that have been added to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games program. The halfpipe in freeskiing is similar to the halfpipe event in snowboarding except it is done on skis. Slopestyle is a high-flying event that involves a variety of jumps, rails and other obstacles on each run. Skicross, meanwhile, is a group race down a hill (similar to snowboardcross) and was added to the Olympic program in Vancouver in 2010.


Bobby Brown slides a rail during qualification for the slopestyle
world cup on Jan. 10, 2013 in Copper Mountain, Colo.

EYES ON THE SKY

The freeskiing halfpipe competition will feature the world’s best freeskiers attempting to impress judges with tricks that will include somersaults, flips and twists. The competition will consist of qualifying and final rounds with each athlete getting two runs in each round. The top 12 point-scorers advance out of qualifying and into the finals. Medal winners are determined by the total number of points.

SLOPESTYLE JUMPING

Freeskiers in the slopestyle competition will maneuver over rails, quarter-pipes and jumps. The slopestyle course at Rosa Khutor will be 635 meters long with three jumps that get progressively bigger through the course. This will allow athletes to show off their best stuff toward the end of their runs. The competition will include qualifying, semifinal and final rounds, with each athlete getting two runs in each round. The field will be cut to the top eight athletes for the semifinals and four for the finals. Medal winners are determined by the total number of points.

HOW THE SLOPESTYLE SCORING WORKS

Each skier’s run is judged on six criteria: execution, amplitude, variety, degree of difficulty, artistry and specific combinations. A score ranges from 1 to 100. Five judges will be in place for the slopestyle competition.

THE MULTIPLE ROUNDS OF SKICROSS

The skicross competition begins with a qualifying round in which athletes maneuver individually down a 1,000-meter course with turns and obstacles. The 32 athletes with the best times are then divided into groups of four, and that‘s where the real fun starts. The top two skiers from each group of four advance to the medal round. The United States did not medal when skicross made its Olympic debut at Vancouver in 2010, but American skier John Teller could be a medal contender in Sochi. He became the first American to win a skicross world cup event when he did so in 2011 in Austria.


Nick Goepper spins through the air to win the gold medal in the
slopestyle final during the Winter X Games at Buttermilk Mountain
on Jan. 27, 2013 in Aspen, Colo.

TEAM USA CONTENDERS

With the introduction of new disciplines halfpipe and slopestyle, the United States is position to contend medals in all three freeskiing events. David Wise has medaled at five halfpipe world cups in the men’s competition and won four national championships, and Torin Yater-Wallace won a gold medal at the test event in Sochi. Among the American men to watch in slopestyle are Tom Wallisch, who won a gold medal at the 2013 world championships, Bobby Brown, a nine-time Dew Tour medalist, and Nick Goepper, an Indiana native who earned his first X Games gold medal, took a silver medal at the world championships and won the slopestyle AFP title in 2013. Gus Kenworthy is expected to compete in both halfpipe and slopestyle.

Among the women to watch is Devin Logan, a four-time world cup medalist in the halfpipe, who is considered to be an Olympic medal contender in both halfpipe and slopestyle. Maddie Bowman is a three-time world cup medalist in halfpipe. Joining Logan among the women’s slopestyle contenders is Emilia Wint, a fast riser who scored a third-place finish on the Dew Tour in her first season before injuring her knee in December 2012. Grete Eliassen also suffered a knee injury in 2012 but rallied in 2013 to win the world championship bronze medal.

In skicross, watch out for four-time world cup medalist John Teller, a bronze medalist at the 2013 world championships, Joe Swensson, a world cup medalist, and Winter X Games star Langely McNeal.

Devin Logan skis in the halfpipe finals at the VISA U.S. Freeskiing
Grand Prix on Dec. 9, 2011 in Copper Mountain, Colo.

DEVIN LOGAN: TWICE THE CONTENDER

If there’s anyone ready for the Olympic debut of halfpipe and slopestyle skiing, it’s Devin Logan. She figures to be a medal contender in both events during her expected Olympic debut in Sochi. She made her Winter X Games debut in 2011 in both events, earning a silver medal in halfpipe. She earned silver medals in both events a year later in the Winter X Games. Logan is known for performing a strong combination of tricks. A knee injury in 2012 forced her out of action following a win at the New Zealand World Cup, but Logan used the time recovering to serve as an Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) and FIS judge. Before the injury, she had won two consecutive AFP overall championships in 2011 and 2012.

CHASING HER DREAM

Reaching Sochi as a member of the U.S. Olympic Team would mark a lifelong dream of women’s halfpipe skier Jen Hudak. She competed in her first world cup event more than 10 years ago in Switzerland. She went on to win five world cup medals and was the silver medalist at the 2011 world championships. In addition, she is a three-time U.S. champion and won the AFP overall standings race in 2010. Finally, in 2014, she may get a chance to be an Olympian following her recovery from a fifth knee surgery and dislocated shoulder. “With patience, focus, hard work and faith, I can make my dream a reality,” she said on the U.S. Freeskiing website. In addition to her skiing abilities, Hudak was been a leader in off-the-snow activities. She created a foundation that helps young adults achieve their dreams. The foundation offers two scholarships annually to athletes. She also works with the V Foundation for cancer research and was on the U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete Advisory Council.

SOCHI GOLD

Torin Yater-Wallace’s first visit to Sochi’s Olympic course produced a gold medal in February 2013. He’ll be hoping for more gold this coming February. Yater-Wallace, who turned 18 on Dec. 2, won the men’s halfpipe in the test event for freeskiing last February at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, a world cup event. That was hardly his first taste of success, though. Yater-Wallace made waves when he won the 2012 AFP halfpipe world championship, and then in 2013 he won a silver medal at the 2013 FIS World Championships. In addition, Yater-Wallace is a five-time world cup medalist who the AFP has had ranked No. 1 or No. 2 the last two years. His best may still be to come. Yater-Wallace is a senior at Aspen (Colo.) High School.

 
John Teller competes in the skicross world cup on Jan. 16, 2013
in Megeve, France.

JOHN TELLER: READY TO ROLL

An alternate selection for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, John Teller has risen quickly into American skicross history and is poised to contend for an Olympic medal in Sochi. In 2011, he became the first U.S. skicross athlete to win a gold medal at a world cup, and he also won a gold medal at the Winter X Games. But don’t be surprised if you see him walking around with a wrench instead of a pair of skis. A native of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., Teller is an auto mechanic for the family business. His dad owns a Chevron station in Mammoth and his uncle owns Alpine Garage. Teller works at both. “What can I say, it’s in our blood,” Teller told Autoweek. Teller turned to skicross after competing for years in alpine skiing but falling short of making the national team. He has finished 11th or higher in each of the last three world cup seasons and earned the bronze medal at the 2013 world championships. 

 
Tom Wallisch competes in the slopestyle eliminations during the
Winter X Games 14 at Buttermilk Mountain on Jan. 28, 2010
in Aspen, Colo.

THE INTERNET STAR

Six sets of medals will be handed out in freeskiing at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, making a total of 18 medals. When combined with the freestyle skiing competition, the United States will be a strong medal contender in this area. Team USA won four medals in three freestyle events at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, which was the largest number of freestyle medals by one nation. Team USA did not medal in men’s or women’s skicross in 2010.

THE VENUE

All freeskiing events will be held at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Snowboarding and the moguls and aerials of freestyle skiing also will be held at Rosa Khutor. The venue, which has a spectator capacity of 8,000 for freestyle skiing, is located west of the Rosa Khutor area that will be used for alpine skiing. The venue has been host to a number of test events, including a freeskiing world cup in February 2013.

TEAM USA SELECTIONS

Performances in world cup competitions, along with a five-stop Olympic qualifying series, will determine the freeskiing spots on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. Including the freestyle skiing sports of moguls and aerials, the U.S. roster will consist of 26 athletes. Those placing among the top three at two world cups or other Olympic-qualifying events will be nominated to the team, unless there are more than two. Then a tie-breaking system is used. The anchor leg of the Olympic qualifying series is the Visa U.S. Grand Prix and World Cup Dec. 19-22 at Copper Mountain, Colo.

Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990 and was Olympic assistant bureau chief for Morris Communications at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. He also writes about Olympic sports for the Springfield (Mass.) Republican. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Tom Wallisch of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania does an aerial maneuver as he descends the course  during the Men's Skiing Slopestyle Eliminations during Winter X Games 14 at Buttermilk Mountain
 on January 28, 2010 in Aspen, Colorado. Wallisch finished fifth to advance to the finals.
Tom Wallisch of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania does an aerial maneuver as he descends the course  during the Men's Skiing Slopestyle Eliminations during Winter X Games 14 at Buttermilk Mountain
 on January 28, 2010 in Aspen, Colorado. Wallisch finished fifth to advance to the finals.
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