Beijing 2022 - A Guide to Snowboard Slopestyle
Snowboard Slopestyle is the first snowboarding event at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing - and it could arguably be the most exciting event. Certainly, Snowboard Halfpipe is the traditional event and will be thrilling in it's own right, and Snowboard Big Air is where we'll see some of the biggest tricks we've ever seen before. But the technical difficulty and variety shown in a Slopestyle run on the rails and the jumps is what makes it the best event in my eyes.
But what should you know about Snowboard Slopestyle, and what will the judges be looking for?
Snowboard Slopestyle Formats
Typically, there are 2 choices of formats for Slopestyle: 2-Run Best Run Counts and 3-Run Best Run Counts. This basically means that the riders get either 2 or 3 attempts at landing their run - and the decision as to which format to use comes down to whether the weather and the TV show allows for it.
However, there are 2 different options for Judging formats for Snowboard Slopestyle: Overall Impression and Section-By-Section. Section By Section is an intricate beast, so we'll cover that in another post.
Overall Impression works exactly like it does in Snowboard Halfpipe, where 6 judges give a score for the full run from top-to-bottom. These scores are then averaged and that average gives the rider their overall score. Once again, the score doesn't really mean anything, except to provide an overall rank in the competition.
The Snowboard Slopestyle Course
A Slopestyle course is typically made up of 6 sections - normally 3 rail sections and 3 kicker sections. But it's not unheard of for a course to feature 5 or 7 sections, and to have a different balance of the number of rails and kicker sections.
No matter the course, all sections are considered to be equal - meaning a rider has to be as good on the rails as they are on the jumps. This is certainly a turning point we've seen recently, as the rider's are doing very similar kicker tricks - the decision as to where they will rank comes down to the rails.
The Judging Criteria
When we're evaluating the runs, we consider the same criteria as in halfpipe: Difficulty, Amplitude, Variety, Execution, Progression, Course Use and Risk factor. The only difference is we now have to evaluate rail tricks as well as jump tricks.
With difficulty we consider the number of rotations, the axis used, the take-off (both on the jumps and onto the rails), the choice of rail (some are easier than others), the combination of rotations (on the rails and from jump to jump).
Amplitude is very self-explanatory fort the kickers - we want to see the riders go big, but we don't want to see them go so big that they then don't have enough speed for the next section. Seeing as more and more courses (including the Beijing 2022 Slopestyle course) feature canon rails, or rails designed to be used almost like a kicker, amplitude can come into play on the rails too.
Variety is crucial in Slopestyle, particularly when we look at the direction of rotation across both the rails and the kickers. We consider this in a clockwise & anticlockwise format, as well as the traditional frontside, backside, switch backside and switch frontside directions. Does the rider show tricks in both (or all) directions throughout the course? For example, a run with poor variety might spin a cab 270 on and 270 off the first rail, then a backside 270 on and off the second rail, then a back 12 and a cab 12 on the jumps - 4 tricks (likely out of 6) all in a clockwise direction. It's these tiny details that we now have to look at to separate the runs, because the riders have gotten THAT good at snowboarding.
With the execution criteria, we're considering how well the run was done. Were they fully locked into the rails? Did they slip off early or miss parts of the rail? Were they grabbing their rotation? Were they under or over rotating the rotations (both on the jumps and coming off the rails). As a rail rider, it really sticks in my mind if there's poor execution on the rails.
Progression again is relatively self explanatory - is the rider doing new tricks, or tricks on a new axis? Are they bringing back an 'old' trick and adding a new flavour to it?
Risk Factor considers the risk not just in the tricks itself, but in terms of where they throw their biggest tricks in the run. Do they do it first hit and risk fucking up the entire run? Or do they save a banger for the last hit when everything has gone smoothly?
And finally - use of course. We want to see the snowboarders actually snowboarding. This comes into play a lot on the rail sections when there's the possibility of hitting multiple features or taking a creative line. It was disappointing in PyeongChang when there was tonnes of options, but most riders just used the sections as a straight rail section (whereas the skiers got a bit more creative).
Simple - right?
Is Snowboard Slopestyle the hardest to judge?
When we judge Overall Impression, I would say it's the hardest, because a lot of the time you're trying to compare apples and oranges. It's often pretty clear at the top, but for the riders from 5th to 10th place, you could argue and justify the rankings either which way - but that's why there's 6 of us on the panel for that exact reason, to balance out the opinions. But 1 rider could have awesome jumps but very average rails, and another rider could have awesome rails but very average jumps. Because all the sections are equally weighted, a lot of the time it comes down to judge-opinion for me.
When we judge Section-By-Section, it becomes a whole lot easier - but we'll explain that in the next article.
When to watch Snowboard Slopestyle at the Winter Olympics?
You can tune in on Eurosport/Discovery+ to catch all of the Winter Olympics action, but specifically make sure you're tuned in on the following days for snowboard Slopestyle:
5th Feb - Womens Slopestyle Qualification
6th Feb - Womens Slopestyle Finals
6th Feb - Mens Slopestyle Qualification
7th Feb - Mens Slopestyle Finals
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