By Peggy Shinn | Jan. 31, 2019, 6:26 p.m. (ET)

 

The 2019 FIS Freestyle Ski, Snowboard and Freeski World Championships start this week, and 1,400 athletes from 40 nations are flying to Utah. It’s the first time since 2011 that freestyle worlds has been held in the United States. With the addition of snowboarding, this world championship will be the largest event hosted in Utah since the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002, with events spread across four different mountain resorts.

During the 10-day championship, five American skiers and snowboarders will try to defend their 2017 world titles, and 68 others on Team USA will try to win their first — in front of a home crowd.

As 2017 aerials world champion Jonathon Lillis said, “It has been one of the great honors of my life representing the sport that I love so much as the world champion for the past two seasons. I can think of nothing better than being able to come back to Deer Valley and defend my title in the town that has opened its arms and been home to me for the past seven years. I know with the support of my teammates and my brother Chris at my side we have the ability to do anything.”

Here are 10 storylines to watch. Most events will be aired live on NBCSN or the Olympic Channel.


1) Utah’s Olympic Legacy On Full Display

Held 17 years after the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the 2019 world championships will showcase Olympic venues that are still in use — such as the Deer Valley moguls course and Park City halfpipe — as well as new ones, like the snowboardcross and skicross course at Solitude Resort and big air jump at Canyons Village.

Although Park City hosted freestyle world championships in 2003 and 2011, snowboarding wasn’t part of the championships then. Freeskiing (slopestyle, halfpipe and skicross) was on the world championship program in 2011, though halfpipe and slopestyle athletes had yet to become Olympic stars until 2014.

This time, Olympic medal-winning freeskiers such as David Wise, Brita Sigourney and Alex Ferreira will compete, as well as snowboarding stars Chloe Kim, Jamie Anderson and Red Gerard.

Solitude Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon will host snowboardcross and skicross at the beginning of the 10-day championship. Solitude hosted a test event world cup in 2017, with Lindsey Jacobellis finishing third.

Like it did at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Park City Mountain Resort is hosting the halfpipes and has added the slopestyle competitions. Big air is slated for the Canyons Village just west of Park City, and Deer Valley is again the site for moguls and aerials.


2) Can Lindsey Jacobellis Win A Record Sixth World Title?

Snowboardcross kicks off the 2019 world championships, with men’s and women’s finals on Friday at Solitude. And Lindsey Jacobellis is ready to go. At 33 years old, she has been in the sport since many of her competitors were in elementary school. The most dominant boardercross rider in history, she has five world championship golds, 10 X Games golds and 30 world cup wins, including her most recent win in December. And she beats riders a decade younger.

“Really excited to be attending my sixth world championships and even more excited to be in the USA,” Jacobellis said in a statement. “I look forward to the venue that Solitude Mountain has put together as well as the mixed gender team race.”

If Jacobellis wins on Friday, it will be her sixth world title (she also won in 2005, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2017). And the 2006 Olympic silver medalist still has it. Although she finished fourth at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, she led from the start.

In men’s boardercross, look for world junior champion and Youth Olympic gold medalist Jake Vedder, 20, who finished second in a world cup in December. Or veteran Nate Holland. Last March, the 40-year-old three-time Olympian won a world cup, beating American teammate Mick Dierdorff, a 2018 Olympian, who finished second.

Then there’s 2018 Olympian Nick Baumgartner, 37, who finished fourth in the PyeongChang final, one place ahead of Dierdorff.

When: Friday, Feb. 1 at 11 a.m. MT (broadcast 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
Where: Solitude Resort


3) Can Anyone Beat Chloe Kim?

The reigning Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe snowboarding, Chloe Kim just won her fifth X Games gold medal in Aspen (and sixth overall). Since winning gold in PyeongChang last February, the 18-year-old snowboarding phenom has not lost a halfpipe competition, including the 2018 Burton U.S. Open and two world cups this season. As her X Games bio reads: “She just might be untouchable, especially now that she's the first woman to land a double cork 1080 in a halfpipe.”

Also look for 2018 Olympic bronze medalist Arielle Gold (third in the Laax World Cup in mid-January) and 2018 Olympian Maddie Mastro (second at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain in December) to join Kim on the podium.

When: Friday, Feb. 8 at 11 a.m. MT (broadcast 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
Where: Park City Mountain Resort


4) Can The U.S. Men Sweep The Halfpipe Skiing Podium?

They almost did it last year at the PyeongChang Games. And they almost did it again at the 2019 X Games in Aspen this past weekend. Alex Ferreira and David Wise have made a habit of going 1-2, with Wise winning his second Olympic gold medal in halfpipe last winter and Ferreira flying in to score silver. At 2019 X Games, it was Ferreira who came out on top with Wise second. If defending world champion and 2018 Olympian Aaron Blunck lays one down as well, the American men could sweep the podium.

“Sierra Nevada, Spain (the 2017 world championships) went really well, and I’m hoping this time around is no different,” said Blunck. “It is on home turf and in a halfpipe I really like so it should be a fun event!”

In women’s halfpipe, Kelly Sildaru from Estonia and Olympic gold medalist Cassie Sharpe from Canada have dominated just about every competition this season, from halfpipe to slopestyle. Look for Brita Sigourney to add to the Olympic hardware she brought home from PyeongChang (bronze). She finished third in the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain in December and fourth at the 2019 X Games.

2014 Olympic gold medalist Maddie Bowman is also competing and always a gold-medal threat.

When: Saturday, Feb. 9 at 11 a.m. MT
Where: Park City Mountain Resort


5) Can Alex Hall Keep His Mojo Alive In Slopestyle Skiing?

Alex Hall has had quite a season. The 20-year-old Olympian and Youth Olympic silver medalist finished second in big air skiing at a world cup in Italy in early November. In December, he finished second at the Dew Tour in slopestyle. Then he won a slopestyle world cup in January — his second world cup win — before flying back to the States to win his first X Games gold medal. Hall grew up in Switzerland but attended the Winter Sports Academy in Park City and is enrolled at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Will home field advantage help him keep the win streak alive?

Also watch for McRae Williams to defend his 2017 slopestyle world title and two-time Olympic medalist Nick Goepper, who recently became engaged. The 2019 world championships could also introduce the world to 17-year-old Mac Forehand, who’s the reigning junior world champion in big air and scored his first world cup podium in slopestyle earlier this season.

In women’s slopestyle, Estonia’s Sildaru is a heavy favorite. But Maggie Voisin just finished third in slopestyle at X Games, which she won in 2018. And 15-year-old Eileen Gu, on the U.S. freeski rookie team, could carry momentum to her first senior world championship. She finished on the podium in only her second world cup on Jan. 12, then won a world cup two weeks later.

When: Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 11 a.m. MT (broadcast 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
Where: Park City Mountain Resort


6) Can The Moguls Women Keep Worlds Medal Streak Alive?

American women have stood on the moguls or dual moguls podiums at every world championship since 2003. Jaelin Kauf, 21, is the most recent world championship medalist on the U.S. team. In 2017 — just her second year of competing a full international schedule — Kauf won a world championship bronze medal in dual moguls. She now has more experience — including the 2018 Olympic Winter Games — and is currently ranked third overall in moguls, with three world cup podium finishes this season.

Right on Kauf’s tail is 18-year-old Tess Johnson, who finished third earlier this month at the Lake Placid World Cup. The women like the Deer Valley moguls course, with Kauf scoring podium finishes there for the past three seasons.

For the men, Canadian moguls skier Mikael Kingsbury is favored to win; he’s the reigning Olympic gold medalist. But 2017 world silver medalist Bradley Wilson has made the super final in a couple of world cups this season, and Casey Andringa, who finished fifth at the PyeongChang Games, has worked his way up the rankings all season. His next step is a podium finish.

When: Moguls finals, Friday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. MT (broadcast 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN) … Dual moguls finals, Saturday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. MT
Where: Deer Valley Resort


7) Will Home Field (Air?) Advantage Help The U.S. Aerials Team?

At the last world championships, the U.S. aerials team operated like a special ops Air Force unit. Jonathon Lillis and Ashley Caldwell both won world titles.

Since then, the team has struggled. No Americans have made the world cup podium in over a year. At the most recent world cup, Madison Varmette was the top U.S. aerials skier in fifth, the top male was Chris Lillis, Jonathon’s younger brother and newly crowned national champion, in seventh.

But don’t count out 25-year-old Caldwell. The three-time Olympian always goes big — she's the first U.S. woman to land both a full, full, full and The Daddy (a full, double full, full). She is recovering from shoulder surgery but will no doubt want to put on a show for her adopted hometown of Park City. And Jonathon Lillis, 24, has shown moments of his best form, qualifying first at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games (he finished eighth in the finals).

When: Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. MT (broadcast 9 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel and 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
Where: Deer Valley Resort


8) Can Chris Corning Win Another World Championship Medal?

At his first senior world championship in 2017, Chris Corning — then 17 years old — won medals in both big air and slopestyle snowboarding (silver and bronze, respectively). In his Olympic debut in 2018, he finished fourth in big air, a near-miss that has to hurt. This season, Corning has made it back to the podium in both slopestyle and big air, finishing on the podium in every world cup but one and winning both a big air and slopestyle competition (most recently in mid-January). He also finished second in the Dew Tour slopestyle in December. His only struggles have come at the X Games, where he wasn’t near a top-three finish in either event.

Also watch for Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard to step up on the podium again in slopestyle and/or big air. Or 17-year-old Judd Henkes could make his move onto the podium at world championships.

In women’s slopestyle and big air, Hailey Langland just earned her third X Games medal in slopestyle. The 18-year-old Olympian could be a factor in big air too. And never count out the once-dominant Jamie Anderson. The three-time Olympic medalist has not competed much since the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. But that’s never stopped her before.

When: Big air snowboarding finals, Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. MT (broadcast 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN) … Slopestyle snowboarding finals, Sunday, Feb. 10 at 11 a.m. MT (broadcast 1 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel and 3 p.m. ET on NBC)
Where: Canyons Village for big air; Park City Mountain Resort for slopestyle


9) Is Men’s Halfpipe Snowboarding Team A Look At The Future?

With reigning Olympic gold medalist Shaun White focused on skateboarding and possibly the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, halfpipe snowboarding has a new man to beat: Australia’s Scotty James has won every major competition in the 2018-19 season. But behind him, a trio of young American riders — and one veteran — have accompanied James on the podium.

Toby Miller, 18 and a Shaun White protégé, took second at the U.S. Grand Prix and third at the Dew Tour in December.

Olympian Chase Josey, 23, also made the Dew Tour and U.S. Grand Prix podiums, in second and third, respectively. Josey finished sixth in halfpipe at the PyeongChang Games and fourth at the most recent X Games.

Then there’s Jake Pates, 20, the 2016 Youth Olympic gold medalist who made the 2018 Olympic team after winning the 2017 Dew Tour with a whopping 97.33 score. The young rider scored a world cup podium in mid-January.

When: Friday, Feb. 8 at 11:16 a.m. MT (broadcast 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
Where: Park City Mountain Resort


10) How Will Team USA Fare In New-To-2022 Olympic Events?

At the next Olympic Winter Games, big air skiing and mixed gender team events in aerials and snowboardcross will debut. Big air snowboarding was a, um, big success in PyeongChang, so the International Olympic Committee has extended the event to freeskiers. Watch for Alex Hall and Caroline Claire to light up the night ski at Canyons Village. Both Olympians earned world cup podium finishes in big air this season.

When: Saturday, Feb. 2 at 7:13 p.m. MT (broadcast 1 a.m. ET, Feb. 3, on NBCSN)
Where: Canyons Village

The aerials mixed team event pairs three athletes — either one woman and two men, or two women and one man. They each do one jump, and their scores are combined for the team total.

When: Thursday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. MT (broadcast 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
Where: Deer Valley

The mixed team snowboardcross event made its world cup debut during the 2012-13 season. As with standard four-aside snowboardcross events, the team competition works in a knockout bracket format, with four teams racing head-to-head in heats. The top two teams from each heat make their way forward towards the eventual big final.

Unlike a standard boardercross event, the team event functions as a two-competitor-per-team relay, with the second member of the team released from the start gate as soon as the first member of their team has crossed the finish line. The first team to have both competitors across the finish line in the big final is the winner.

If Lindsey Jacobellis competes through 2022, this event will give her an extra chance to win an Olympic gold medal — and another world title in 2019.

When: Sunday, Feb. 3 at 11 a.m. MT (broadcast 1 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel and 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN)
Where: Solitude Resort

 

A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered five Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.