Freestyle Skiing is a high-octane, high-speed combination of mind-blowing tricks and absolute precision, ensuring it is one of the biggest draws at any Olympic Winter Games. Having been a demonstration sport at the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games, freestyle skiing was officially added to the programme for Albertville 1992.
It is hardly surprising this event catches the public attention. The athletes execute spins and backflips in five disciplines – moguls (beginning February 9), aerials (February 15), ski slopestyle (February 17), ski half-pipe (February 19), and ski cross (February 21) – making for an exhilarating spectacle. During PyeongChang 2018, freestyle skiing events will take place at the Phoenix Snow Park, which can accommodate up to 18,000 people.
Flying high and falling down
Much of the drama can be found in the aerials events, in which athletes race at speed towards a jump, which is usually between two and four metres high. Propelling themselves upwards of six metres into the air, each competitor is judged on their technique; the 10-point mark maximum score comprises lift-off, height and distance (air performance), style and landing.
Ski cross, meanwhile, is a race event that is big on crashes and drama, with four athletes racing down a track made up of jumps, banks and rollers. Position is decided in the order in which each athlete crosses the finishing line, while progression to the next stage of the competition is decided by two qualifying rounds, with the scores combined to give an overall ranking.
Like its snowboarding equivalent, the half-pipe competition takes place on a semi-circular slope in which athletes build enough speed and air to perform a series of acrobatic spins and flips. Five judges assess technique, height and degrees of difficulty when grading each competitor’s overall score.
Have some style
Ski slopestyle is just as thrilling, as athletes speed down a slope featuring jumps, table tops and rails. As with the half-pipe and aerials events, a team of judges scrutinises each run for style and execution, combining the scores from two heats to determine the athlete’s overall ranking.
Moguls in a regular ski resort are fields of bumps, usually formed by turning skiers. In an Olympic Winter Games, the course is an artificially created run in which athletes have to successfully execute speed and technique – judges grade each skier on air manoeuvres and turning technique; time is then added to the final scores.
Team USA top the all-time freestyle skiing medal table with a combined gold, silver and bronze tally of 21, including eight golds, and will be expected to be among the medals at PyeongChang 2018. Canada has also won eight gold medals and will be among the main contenders in the Republic of Korea.