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How freestyle skiing is scored

Jan. 29, 2010, 4:30 p.m. (ET)

How freestyle skiing is scored in the Olympics:


Equal parts ski jumping and gymnastics, aerials first became an Olympic event at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. Competitors start down a steep ramp focusing on generating enough speed to produce the highest takeoff possible. Unlike ski jumping, in which the ramp flattens out at the end, the aerials ramp goes straight up at the end, propelling skiers five stories in the air where they remain aloft for about 3.5 seconds - enough time to include up to three flips and five twists before landing. Judges score the jumps based on takeoff, height, body position, form and landing. The jump's degree of difficulty is factored into each score, much like diving. Each competitor makes two jumps in qualifying. The scores are combined, and the top 16 advance to the finals. There, the scores are reset, and the aerialist with the top combined score from two more jumps wins.



Moguls is downhill skiing over a series of small mounds - called moguls - with a dash of aerials thrown in. The sport made its debut at the 1992 Albertville Games. Skiers try to keep their upper body facing forward as their lower half bounds from mogul to mogul while they zip down the slope. Most wear brightly colored knee pads so the judges can tell if their knees and skis are pointed straight downhill. Keeping the skis glued to the ground as much as possible is considered good form. The course features two ramps over which skiers are required to do a set of jumps. Some choose to go "off axis" - parallel to the ground - something that was forbidden until American skier Jonny Moseley got it OK'd at the 2002 games.

The goal is to get through the course as quickly and smoothly as possible. Five judges focus on the skiers' technical ability to handle the moguls while two judges rate the jumps, considering everything from the height to the degree of difficulty. Although it's not a race exactly, each run is timed and compared against a pace-set time for the course. The faster you are, the better it reflects on your score.

The top 20 skiers advance to the finals, where the gold medal goes to the athlete with the top score.



Think of skicross as NASCAR on skis. This new Olympic event was added after the wildly successful debut of snowboardcross at the 2006 Turin Games. In each event, athletes compete in groups of four, racing through an obstacle course of sorts down the mountain, navigating a series of turns and jumps as they go. The goal is simple - fastest one down the mountain wins. Skiers start with a qualifying run, then are placed into heats depending on their time. Each heat includes four skiers. The top two finishers advance to the next round, all the way through the finals.