Adding slopestyle to the Olympics isn’t about elevating the sport to the highest level or welcoming snowboarders into the world class athletes club. If it was they would have flown Gunny and the SPT crew out to Russia to build a course designed by the riders themselves. If you’ve ever done a slopestyle competition you know that some courses feel right and some don’t, it’s a matter of flow. This course appears to have zero flow, looks like whoever designed it played Cool Boarders 4 and their expertise ends there. Everything is so jammed together it’s like they expect riders to hop from feature to feature making for really large combo points.
Most people don’t know what the hell I’m talking about since most people can’t seem to understand the basic fact that slopestyle is just the competitive form of what we call “taking a park lap”. So for those less informed and for those who want to understand why I think the course looks to be shit, let me break it down.
The top rail section is a mess, they tried to recreate the gap to down pipe with stairs setup from Mammoth but half assed it and added some useless rails on the side plus the first of two ride one boxes on the course…RIDE ON BOXES.
The second section looks perfect…for skiiers. They can do their sideways slides or oppo sideways slides to 620 out on any of those features. If one rider in the contest can miller flip that center tube I’ll be really impressed. Not as impressed as I’d be if Magoon was there and rode under it, hopped to the left then frontboarded the down of the flat down but impressed none the less.
The third rail section immediately following (and I mean immediately following) the middle section has the second of the ride on boxes, a wave rail borrowed from Snow Summit’s 90’s collection, a flat down tube and a gap to down rail with a lip that appears to be as high if not higher than the rail. Again, nicely setup for skiiers so they can twirl on and twirl out.
The final rail section has a gap run in on the left to an up flat tube, might see some cool switch ups there but I doubt it. There’s a Russian Matryoshka doll, which would actually be cool if it popped out smaller dolls should a rider bonk it, but instead it’s just there in the middle, poorly setup far from the lip at an odd height hanging out, alone. To the right there’s a gap to another box which will be the mandatory “NOseslide” feature for the ladies.
There is zero room for creativity (that’s ok, judges don’t reward it anyway) and overall the rail section looks like a mishmash of various crappy USASA setups from the Sugarloaf years. Bottom line, nothing I see out there looks properly thought out. It’s sad because the first time slopestyle is on the world stage, it’s setup in a linear, stogy fashion that will no doubt produce a bunch of the twirly, tappy, SSX type of riding the FIS want’s to see.
Now how bout those jumps. They’ve already had two degrees taken off the lip and they’re big. Is that a bad thing? No, hell no. Snowboard contests need big jumps but they need to be properly built big jumps. Have these jumps been built properly? Sorta looks like it and most of the riders have no complaints. It’s really the only part of the contest I’m looking forward to because the easiest way to separate the men from the boys is building big jumps.
A lot of today’s slopestyle riders have been coddled with foam pits and small, poppy contest jumps. It’ll be fun to watch who can hang on these grown man jumps. I know Sage Kotsenburg actually rides his snowboard to train for snowboarding and he does it at Park City and they certainly know how to build big ‘ol jumps. Then there’s NH dirt Chas Guldemond who’s been hitting massive jumps since before some of his competitors were even riding.
I’m hoping that judges will reward big clean flat spins because that’s what these jumps look to be ideal for and something that both those boys are damn good at. In a way, these jumps could be a blessing in disguise for snowboarding because big step down jumps are not built for double, let alone triple corks.
Of course the BIG news this morning is that Shaun White (you may have heard of him) has dropped out of slopestyle and I for one do not give a rats ass. Yes it sucks that in dropping out he has effectively denied another person their shot at competing but it’s not his fault an alternate was not brought along, that’s up to the governing body of Olympic qualification, the FIS. This is what happens when assholes who don’t care about your sport get final say over how it’s run. They don’t care about snowboarding, they don’t care about snowboarder’s safety or course quality. They care about money, they care about making Coca-Cola, P&G, McDonalds and all the other corporate sponsors happy. I can’t wait to see what type of ad’s are run during the “prime” 10pm slot they’ve given slopestyle.
I’m not mad at Shaun, you could even say he’s doing the most core thing possible in dropping out of the contest if his reason for doing so is really that he believes the course to be sub-par. We’ll never know if that’s the real reason, we’ll just continue to speculate and argue amongst ourselves, all the while losing sight of the real problem here, we’re being prostituted for corporate gains. It’ll keep happening too because most professional snowboarders are happy to “live the life” instead of forming a union like NFL players have.
With Shaun out of slopestyle the spotlight is bound to fall one someone and I hope that someone is Chas because he knows what I’m talking about and has spoken out about it in the past. I hope that when the mic is in front of him he speaks up and talks about how now more than ever snowboarders need to come together as one to push for change in competition. You might say I’m encouraging greed but I’m not. I’m simply saying that if you were risking your life every time you went to work, wouldn’t you want to be compensated fairly, especially if you weren’t in control of your job description?
For this brief moment the eyes of the world are upon our little community we call snowboarding, hopefully we’re able to show them that we’re ready to be taken seriously. That being snowboarder is about taking calculated risks and sometimes the risk isn’t worth the reward. On the other hand, maybe we’re just a bunch of stoned adrenaline junkies, doing Jackass stuff on the mountain and we should be so lucky as to get even the smallest piece of the Olympic pie.
* I know some riders have tweeted or made statements that put the course in a positive light. To each their own, I’m just saying from where I’m sitting, it looks boring and poorly thought out.