Today marks 100 days until the start of the Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea and the FIS just released a preview of the ski and snowboard slopestyle course.
It looks, in a word, crazy. The general layout follows Olympic course standards with three jib and rail islands leading into three jumps, although the final rail setup could be considered two separate sections as it flows quickly into a small step-down before the three main jumps. Regardless, the specifics of each feature set are where it gets interesting.
The design has been lead by Germany's Schneestern, and is largely based on the course from the PyeongChang Olympic test event in February 2016. There have been a few tweaks however, including shifting features from left to right to improve camera angles for television, and additional transition takeoffs on the second jump feature.
Now there are two general philosophies in slopestyle course design. The first is to create a course that's relatively easy to ride which allows competitors to do their most difficult tricks. In other words, the features aren't an obstacle, just a tool to showcase a rider's most difficult or stylish tricks. The second is to design a course where getting through the features are more a challenge, sometimes leading to more basic tricks, but potentially more creative line choices.
The second option seems to be what Schneestern has employed. Based off the level of riding at the 2016 test event, it looked like the course itself was a challenge to get down. Granted, the conditions were icy and windy, which didn't make things any easier. And if the Sochi Olympics were an indication, we can expect riders to pull out all the stops once the Games begin.
Watch Brock Crouch's winning run from the PyeongChang 2016 Olympic Test Event.
Take a look below as we break down the course.
This is the most standard feature on the course. However, even here we see some innovation with a rainbow rail to kink and wall jam option on the rider's left.
It’s a good chance for riders to throw a more technical trick to start their run as the course only gets more challenging.
Next up is the second jib island with the hitching post/hip option on the rider's right and the gap-to-dish-to-down-rail option on the left.
There are lots of line choices here but the easiest is popping out of the dish onto the down-bar. This will probably be the path most traveled. Although, remember, Sage Kotsenburg broke the mold in Sochi with his half-Cab "Stoney Surfer" to backside 180 out and was rewarded richly for his creativity.
Let's call this section risk versus reward. There’s a snow bowl, which is new to a mainstream slopestyle course, and the curved rail that connects to the elbow kink. The curved rail route could pay off huge but the risk for making it is also huge. This is all followed by a small step-down.
There are multiple takeoffs on the first jump, which look eye-catching, but will they lead to any more progressive tricks? Based on the Olympic test event that wasn't the case, but judges might reward their use because the angled takeoffs are slightly more challenging.
This will probably be one of the most interesting features to watch. Will judges give higher scores for using the quarter-pipe takeoffs? Competitors will surely be watching scores closely with this many options and adjusting their lines accordingly.
Here it is, the grand finale, ye old money booter, where you're guaranteed to see some triple corks, if not some quads. It has a small takeoff, generally called a women's takeoff, but none of the women who podiumed in Sochi used that option.
Tune in to Dew Tour Breckenridge December 13 – 17 to watch as riders battle for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and a chance to compete on this course in PyeongChang.