Breaking down the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic slopestyle course
The International Ski Federation (FIS) recently unveiled renderings of the slopestyle course for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and the responses so far have been overwhelmingly positive from snowboarders and freeskiers alike.
The design is similar to what was used for the Olympic test events in PyeongChang two years ago, and although modifications have been made, it still maintains a lot of the unique features that garnered buzz when they first debuted. Schneestern, a German-based company, is responsible for the design and build of the course, which will be one of the venues constructed at Bokwang Phoenix Park in PyeongChang for these Olympics.
Below is a rundown of the different sections of the course, along with opinions and insight from a few of the athletes hoping to compete on the real deal in February.
The course is divided into three rail sections, followed by three jump sections — a standard breakdown as far as slopestyle courses go. But for those who routinely watch slopestyle contests, you'll notice that the features themselves differ heavily from what's normally presented to the athletes.
In speaking with multiple athletes who had both competed at the test event two years ago and seen the updated designs, there was one thing in particular they all praised: the creativity of the course.
JAMIE ANDERSON (snowboarder): The course in PyeongChang is very creative. The test event was super unique and different than any other course I've rode.
MAGGIE VOISIN (freeskier): It was crazy how flowy the whole course was. It was unlike anything any of us had ever skied. You could tell the first day [at the test event], it took a little bit longer for people to figure out what their line was going to be, which in the long run was super cool and was unlike any other contest.
Rail section No. 1
The first jib section gives athletes a few different lines to choose from, including a rainbow-to-kink rail.
JOSS CHRISTENSEN (freeskier): This is going to be great. … It's a feature that gives you multiple options that are all equally as difficult.
MAGGIE VOISIN: It's crazy how unique it is and how many options you can take on it. You'll see so many different things.
Rail section No. 2
There's a lot happening in the second section. As Joss Christensen noted, this is a spot where athletes can really get inventive with how they link multiple tricks together.
JOSS CHRISTENSEN: This is a really fun feature, because I actually found out you could hit three in a row — hit this rightside feature, hit the left feature, then the down bar. So you can get more hits in.
Rail section No. 3
The third section takes a page from skateboarding with a portion at the top that mimics a bowl. That's something new to the slopestyle scene, so we'll see have to wait and see how athletes decide to attack this section. There's also a curved rail wrapping around part of the bowl that could end up being rewarding for those bold enough to use it.
JAMIE ANDERSON: I like the creative aspect. You can hit it like 10 different ways. It makes for really fun entertainment to see how creative each and every rider can get.
Jump section No. 1
This has been one of the most talked-about sections of the course ever since it showed up at the test event. The first jump section has a traditional kicker flanked by a pair of angled takeoffs on either side. Athletes will be able to use these angled jumps to differentiate their run, though it creates an interesting question for the judges: how to compare (presumably bigger) tricks done with the traditional takeoff against (presumably smaller) tricks done with one of the trickier angled takeoffs. How the judges decide to strike this balance could ultimately determine how frequently you see competitors using the angled jumps.
JOSS CHRISTENSEN: I think it's great. I'm glad that they're keeping traditional-style jumps in the course all the way down so you don't have to hit these transitions, but it's also very unique, and it's going to help people separate their runs having these different takeoffs.
Jump section No. 2
The second set of jumps features another area where athletes can set themselves apart. Once again, you have a traditional kicker in the middle, but as an alternative, there are also quarterpipe-style takeoffs on either side of that jump. Similar quarterpipe jumps have popped up at other contests, such as last year's Burton U.S. Open, and many athletes have elected to take advantage of them. But, once again, whether or not athletes decide to hit them in PyeongChang will likely depend in part on how much the judges are rewarding their usage.
Jump section No. 3
The course finishes with the standard money booter. This is where you're likely to see some of each contest's biggest tricks bring thrown. Although there are two different jumps, the larger one is likely to get more use.
MAGGIE VOISIN: I like that the money booter's at the bottom because then you can showcase your biggest and best trick on the last jump.
The big takeaway here is that athletes aren't going to be able to just show up in Korea with a stock run that they use at other contests. They'll have to experiment with different lines through the course in practice, and some might even make adjustments mid-contest as they figure out what's being rewarded by the judges.