2022 Winter Olympics: Freestyle Skiing
Bringing skiing to new heights
Did You Know?
The word "mogul" comes from the Austrian word "mugel," which means "small hill" or "mound."
Despite its origins in the mid-1900s, freestyle skiing saw its first Olympic action at the 1988 Calgary Games as a demonstration sport. Its immense popularity, particularly with the Gen-X crowd, made it an official medal sport at Albertville in 1992 . It has been a staple of the Winter Olympics ever since.
In 2011, slopestyle, where athletes perform on a slope with various obstacles, was added as a new event. Also in 2011, the International Olympic Committee approved the halfpipe event for both men and women. Therefore, four new events would be part of Freestyle skiing at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. In 2022, the Big Air event was added for men and women, after the success of big air snowboarding.
The aerial event is perhaps the most breathtaking freestyle discipline. Competitors begin at a spot of their choice and ski straight down the mountain toward a concave jump (which can be as high as 13 ft) that hurls them into the air. They perform a variety of twists and somersaults in midair, and then attempt to stick the landing on their two skis. A panel of five judges ranks the jumps, guided by the following components: 50% form, 20% air, and 30% landing. The 16 women and 16 men with the best scores advance to the final round. Each competitor then jumps twice, and the highest combined score wins the gold.
In the moguls competition, skiers individually race down a mountain covered with large bumps measuring up to four feet. They must make aggressive turns while still keeping their shoulders parallel to the finish line. There are also two jumps, placed one-third and two-thirds of the way down the mountain. At each one, racers attempt to dazzle the panel of seven judges with "helicopters," "back-scratchers," and other creative jumps. The judges use the following criteria to rank the competitors: 50% turns, 25% air, and 25% speed.
Ski cross is similar to snowboard cross, and looks to be just as popular, with its mass start followed by a mad dash down the mountain. Each heat features four skiers skiing down a course of turns, flats, traverses, rolls, banks, and ridges. Strength and endurance are key, but the most important factor is just plain speed.
Slopestyle consists of a downhill course in which competitors perform aerial tricks off of various rails and boxes. The tricks are judged similarly to the other events, with the added element of the environmental factors.
Halfpipe is another downhill trick run, done with a semicircular "halfpipe" within which the skier attempts various jumps and tricks.
Big Air, the major event added to snowboarding in 2018 at Pyeongchang, has now come to skiing in 2022. In big air events, the goal is for athletes to complete three tricks midair during a single jump (and to safely land). The event has become increasingly popular outside of Olympic competition for its striking visuals and technical precision.
The Beijing Games
The freestyle skiing events will be held in two locations. The big air events will be held and Big Air Shougang in Beijing, while the remaining events will be held at Genting Snow Park in nearby Hebei Province. The events will begin with men's moguls on Feb. 5, and will conclude with the men's halfpipe on Feb. 19.