What is Freestyle Skiing?

Cori Gramms
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Freestyle skiing is a type of skiing that allows a single skier to combine a number of different skiing techniques into one continuous run. As opposed to competing in traditional events such as slalom and giant slalom, freestyle skiers can perform to music or perform various challenges, obstacles, jumps, and rails and ski in other terrains just for fun. Aero-tows, other tows, tabletops, spins, inverted spins, and foot plants are all examples of moves that freestyle skiers do.

Quick History of Freestyle Skiing

Freestyle skiing was born out of the need to have some form of competition in skiing. After the First and Second World Wars, skiers from Sweden and Switzerland needed to find another reason to ski. This need translated into pressure to create a new form of skiing that would be deemed attractive to other athletes. This new form of skiing would encompass moves that were originally considered unnecessary in skiing.

The first freestyle skiing competitions were held in the US in the mid-1960s. Freestyle skiing gained more popularity in the 1970s. In 1988, it appeared as a demonstration sport at Olympics for the first time. In 1992 the Mogul freestyle skiing was the first discipline of freestyle sport to be awarded medals at the Winter Olympics.

Freestyle Skiing Today

You might know that freestyle skiing and skateboarding have a lot in common, but are you aware that even parkour is related to freestyle skiing? Freestyle skiing has grown and evolved over the years and has morphed into more than a sport and into a lifestyle. There are many styles of freestyle skiing, some of which include urban freeride, freeride, big air, and park skiing.

All freestyle skiers:

  • Use skis
  • Perform tricks
  • Perform maneuvers
  • Have fun

Aerial Skiing

Freestyle skiing is a broad category that includes a few subcategories, including aerial skiing.

As the name suggests, this division of freestyle skiing involves doing tricks in the air. To do this, skiers must ski down a steep slope, gaining high speeds, before launching off a take-off ramp. Expert skiers can reach a height of 20 meters in the air. They will then perform twists and flips.

Some of the more impressive freestyle skiing techniques that are only performed in an aerial spirit are:

  • Aerial skiing
  • Mogul skiing

Mogul Skiing

Mogul skiing is the original freestyle skiing, and the jumps are referred to as moguls. Mogul skiing started in the 1960s when skiers started skiing down tracks of bumps created on purpose. Mogul skiing became an official FIS-sanctioned discipline in the 1990s. It is the most difficult of the freestyle skiing disciplines, and much of the inspiration for its creation came from snowboarding.

The 200-279 meter course is almost always located on the steepest section of the hill. A typical mogul course consists of up to 44 large bumps, groomed down to perfect humps and bumps.

Mogul skiing allows skiers to show off their prowess to a crowd of spectators, and it provides an excellent opportunity to be creative in their techniques. Skiers try to excel in various disciplines by showing off their jump, aerial, and speed skills.

The ideal mogul run is filled with identical shapes; however, they are usually very different in shape and size. The minimum size of the bumps is said to be 12 inches, but it is preferred that they be regular rather than less than 12 inches at each bump. A mogul course has to have a certain degree of conservatism, which requires that the moguls not be closer than three feet and not further than six feet apart.

Half-pipe Skiing

Half-pipe skiing is a form of skiing that originated from snowboarding. As the name suggests, half-pipe skiing involves skiing on a half-pipe, performing flips and spins. The half-pipe used is typically around 20 to 25 meters long and 3 to 4 meters wide. Skiers only have to deal with side-to-side movement and a touch of rotational movement.

Half-pipe skiing is not a very old kind of skiing. It originated from small half-pipes at ski resorts for skiers to practice gaining speed and landing tricks off the jumps to get good air. Nowadays, you can see half-pipe skiers all over the world performing their tricks to gain the highest scores during a competition.

One of the greatest things about this form of skiing is that you get to perform your tricks on the half-pipe. It is a great feeling of accomplishment to feel so free in the air doing your tricks. If your trick is done well, you will feel weightless. However, if you performed your trick poorly, you will feel it. It is considered one of the most dangerous forms of skiing, and half-pipe skiers are expected to wear helmets at all times.

Slopestyle Skiing

While freestyle skiing means skiing beyond boundaries, the boundaries themselves are expanding. A further type of freestyle skiing is large-scale downhill skiing, referred to as slopestyle skiing.

Slopestyle is an event where skiers use a variety of skills and tricks from mogul jumps, half-pipe, slalom, and acrobatics (to include aerials and crazy flips) to ski downhill to reach a finish line. Although it is a race, the focus is more on the technical aspects of maneuvering through obstacles than the skier's speed. Obstacles mainly take the form of rails and jumps.

Ski Cross

This freestyle skiing discipline was introduced to the Winter Olympics in 2010 in Canada. It is characterized by a fast, sprint-style competition over a short course with a series of natural obstacles used for jumps.

Ski cross is a competition where skiers have to travel down a slope with several types of artificial obstacles, including big-air jumps, rollers, and high-bank turns.

Ski cross uses the same equipment as alpine skiing on a freestyle run. What sets ski cross from alpine skiing is that more than one skier competes at a time. After time trials, the fastest 32 skiers will compete in the next round. These knockout rounds continue until a winner is determined. A feature of this type of ski race is that skiers will be disqualified if they make contact with another skier.

Final Thoughts

Freestyle skiing is very popular with people of all ages and all levels of skill or ability. The modern form of the sport is a hybrid of new equipment and varied techniques that the most experienced freestyle skiers can use to turn the snow into their own giant playground.

Athletes can use their imagination to devise all kinds of daredevil techniques, with the main objective of entertaining the crowds. Freestyle skiing is a spectator’s sport, with the majority of freestyle competitions relying on judges to determine the winners.

Freestyle skiing was developed while trying to overcome the limitations of groomed trails that are used in classic skiing. This has given rise to a variety of freestyle sport disciplines. They include skiing cross-country, acrobatics,gymnastics on skis, jumps, and other acts done on skis, and more recently, on other equipment.

Although considered far more dangerous than classic skiing, freestyle skiing is enjoyed by many skiers who enjoy the adrenaline rush. Moreover, it is undeniably a snow sport viewed and enjoyed by spectators worldwide.