Annyeong-haseyo! (That’s hello in Korean!) I am just arriving back from PyeongChang, South Korea, where the next winter Olympics will be held in 2018. The Olympic slopestyle test event was held at a mountain resort called Phoenix Park, which consists of only a handful of runs throughout the whole resort but is super fun to shred around. Being that this was my first trip to Asia I didn’t know what to expect when arriving, but I was filled with so much excitement especially coming off an amazing big air event in Fenway Park. The experience of being able to travel to where the next Olympics will be held and get a feel for the people, culture and overall atmosphere was incredible; especially because I was injured for the test event in Sochi, Russia, leading up to the 2014 Games.
When I arrived into Seoul, I realized how much more westernized the Koreans were than I was expecting. There was free Wi-Fi mostly everywhere, which was great to connect with friends and family back home. The language barrier was not as difficult as I was expecting either. The Korean people were so nice and welcoming to us. After a three-hour shuttle ride from the airport to Phoenix Park, there was snow on the ground! I woke up the next morning and looked outside my window to find a water park next to our hotel. Phoenix Park is a summer and winter resort, so going up on the mountain you will see rope courses throughout the runs and on the top of the mountain there is a mini golf course!
Team USA had gotten to the resort a day early so while checking out the mountain we also scoped the slopestyle course, which is right at the bottom of the hill. It was perfect for spectating and on finals day there was a huge crowd with entertainment featuring DJ Koo and his cheerleaders. That part was amazing!
This course was different than any other slopestyle course I had ever ridden before. Usually, you have the standard rail section with a bunch of down rails to choose from then into the basic jump line, but the creativeness this course showed looked so fun. The rail section was insane! There were a million different lines and transitions to choose from into a three-jump line. The first jump was the only normal feature on the course to another jump – that was a jump or you could take it as a hit in a halfpipe to the last jump with a middle option or the side jumps that were tilted on angles. I didn’t even think building a jump like that was possible.
Unfortunately, in practice I took a really good fall and my qualifying runs were affected, but I’m glad I was able to even ski and compete. I ended up in 12th, but was excited to watch my teammates Maggie Voisin and McRae Williams ski in the finals. It was a good day for U.S. Freeskiing with Maggie coming in second and McRae ending up with the yellow bib, which means he is the FIS points leader.
I have never been to Asia before and had no idea what to expect, but my teammates and my expectations were met above and beyond what we originally thought. We all hope to be back again in another two years for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea!