Freestyle Skiing

2010-02-08 18:28 BJT

In the United States, the 1960s were a time of revolution, of young people challenging authority and demanding change. Freestyle skiing began in that decade, when social change and freedom of expression led to new and exciting skiing techniques. Originally a mix of alpine skiing and acrobatics, the first freestyle skiing competition was held in Attitash, New Hampshire, in 1966.

A relative newcomer to the Olympic Winter Games program, freestyle moguls became an Olympic medal discipline in 1992, at the Games in Albertville, France. Freestyle aerials were added for the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games. Making its Olympic Winter Games debut in 2010, ski cross, an event within freestyle skiing, is based on a simple concept: first across the finish line wins.

How It Works

There are three Olympic freestyle skiing events for both men and women. Tricks in freestyle skiing include the twister, spread-eagle, iron cross, and the helicopter — an upright 360-degree spin.


Strategically, competitors determine their inrun location based on the type of jump performed, their own freestyle technique and the current environmental conditions. Correct inrun speed is critical to successful aerial performances and athletes can choose two of many different jumps that combine back flips and twists with differing degrees of difficulty. Athletes are judged on the quality of take off, height gained, form and body position, and how they maintain balance upon landing. All competitors complete two jumps in a qualification round. The 16 aerialists with the highest total scores from the qualification round move on to the final round. In the final round, competitors complete two more jumps in reverse order from the qualification results. The aerialist with the highest combined score from the two final jumps wins.


Athletes choose which of the three to four different lines they will ski down on the mogul course. After the start signal, they ski down a steep slope and over a series of offset large bumps (moguls) as high as 1.2 metres, spaced between three to four metres apart. There are two sets of ‘air bumps’, one near the top of the course, the other near the bottom, where the skiers are required to perform two different jumps of their own choice.

The goal is to ski down the course as fast as possible while performing the two jumps without technical errors or loss of balance. Different mogul jumps include the 360- to 1080-degree spins, loops (side flips), off axis jumps, back and front flips, and flips with twists. The jumps can incorporate different grabs or holds of the legs or skis. Going down the moguls, skiers need to keep their upper bodies facing straight down the hill while their lower body and skis are constantly turning. Maintaining snow contact with the skis is an important element.

All competitors participate in a qualification round. The top 20 skiers from the round move into the final with the start list in reverse order of the qualification results. The five “turn” judges award points based on the quality of the skiers’ turns, making deductions for technical mistakes. The two “air” judges determine what jump was performed, how high they are off the jump, and the jump’s quality. Each run is timed and compared to a pace-time set for the course, with the fast skiers being awarded more points. The skier with the highest score in the final round wins.

Ski Cross

Although new to the Olympic sport program, ski cross has existed as a sport since the early days of alpine skiing competition. The “mass start” appeal of ski cross, also seen in snowboard cross, sets the stage for fast and exciting competition.

Not restricted by formal structures and formats, ski cross is part of the FIS freestyle discipline. The majority of competitors have an alpine skiing background.

The ski cross course, designed to test skiers’ skills, incorporates turns in a variety of types and sizes, flat sections and traverses, as well as rolls, banks and ridges similar to those found on a normal ski slope. Structures on the course resemble those found in snowboard cross events. Physical endurance and strength play a key role in ski cross as athletes ski four to five runs lasting 60 seconds or longer.

A timed qualification run is used to seed skiers into different heats, of four skiers each. At the sound of the starting device, the athlete begins racing down the course. The start, as well as the first sections before the first turn, are critical parts of the course, as passing can easily occur here. While other passing areas are designated on the course, interference with other skiers can lead to an athlete’s disqualification.

Each race is limited to four starters. The top half of the finishing field then moves on to the next round in a series of quarter, semi and final rounds.

During each heat, the first two competitors to cross the finish line advance to the next heat, while the last two competitors are ranked based on qualification times. The “big final” round determines which athletes place first to fourth, while the “small final” determines those who rank from fifth to eighth place.

Competition Events

Men’s Aerials

Ladies’ Aerials

Men’s Moguls

Ladies’ Moguls

Men’s Ski Cross

Ladies’ Ski Cross

Editor: Zhang Ning | Source: