Slopestyle may be the most exciting and diverse discipline in all of snowboarding. It’s a mixture of kickers, gaps, rails, step downs, step ups, and just about any feature park designers can dream up. This relatively new event in snowboarding’s competitive history has grown to become a showcase of some of the best talent in winter sports.
The event’s debut appearance on the 2014 Winter Olympics roster has had spectators asking, “What exactly is slopestyle snowboarding?” And although slopestyle courses vary from mountain to mountain, the discipline itself does have some defining characteristics.
History of the Event
Slopestyle is one of the fastest growing events in the mainstream sport of snowboarding, which means the riders are pushing eachother to new levels on a contest-by-contest basis. The result: one of the most exciting events in which to compete and also one of the most entertaining to watch.
Slopestyle came on the snowboarding scene as an official competitive event just in the late 90s, but it didn’t hit the World Cup circuit until 2010. Before that, riders showed off their jump-hitting and rail-riding skills in rail jam, quarterpipe, and big air competitions.
In 2011, a number of competitive snowboarders formed a union and lobbied for slopestyle to be added to the Olympic roster. The course that would be used in the 2014 Winter Olympics was to be tested in a number of events held in February of 2013, in the same location that the world’s most important slopestyle event will take place -- Sochi. Unfortunately, the competition was canceled due to rain and unfavorably warm temperatures.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will quite possibly be the most historic event in all of slopestyle snowboarding held on the most high-profile course ever constructed.
What is a Slopestyle Course?
The defining characteristics of a slopestyle course are its varying features. Unlike other disciplines that consist of only one feature -- such as halfpipe or big air -- a slopestyle course is made of a series of multiple features.
Each course includes jumps (kickers, table tops, gaps, step downs, hips, or quarterpipes) and a variety of rails and boxes. The layout of every slopestyle course is different from next -- an attribute that adds to the excitement of the discipline.
How is it Scored?
While the scoring of some slopestyle events can vary, most follow the same competition layout. Each competitor takes two runs scored by a set of judges. The rider’s best score is the one that’s used to rank him. In bigger competitions, like the X Games, Olympics, or U.S. Open, riders must make it through qualifying rounds to compete in the finals.
A panel of judges score each run based on a number of criteria including the difficulty of maneuvers, creativity, style and execution. As with other snowboarding disciplines, falling or touching the ground with any part of your body upon landing results in a deduction from the rider’s score. The rider with the highest score wins.