17/02/2014 | by Sam McMahon
The Olympics. Sochi 2014. It’s coming, as I’m sure you already know… Like it or not snowboarding will once again be thrust upon the masses. However the halfpipe and slopestyle events are played out is precisely how snowboarding will be thought of by the majority of the population for at least the next four years.
And as ever, this throws up snowboarding’s oldest debate; what should be the main judging criteria? Spin to win, simply who can do the most twists and upside-down, or pure style and creativity? Most of the time we find that our readers would rather watch super-stylish runs than the latest in huck-festivities; but judges (and we have to say competition riders as well) tend towards the crowd-pleasing stunts.
Unsurprisingly, there’s been a few pro-style arguments as of late: in the pipe, Danny Davis’ outburst at Shaun White’s boot-grabbin’, hand-scrapin’ methods at the first Dew Tour stop this season served to fuel the argument’s fire, and Markus Keller refused to spin anything over a seven in the pipe at last weekend’s Burton European Open; although it got him to the finals unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get him on the podium.
On the slopestyle course there were a few sighs of relief this weekend as Sage Kotsenburg made it through to Russia; with an interesting trick bag and unusual grab combos to throw into the mix he’ll be one to watch for the ‘purists.’ Stale Sandbech and Torstein Horgmo, likely members of the as-of-yet unannounced Norweigian team, have the skills to put down some ultra-clean runs, as does our very own Billy Morgan, but with many style-focused riders like Halldor Helgason and Ethan Morgan now out of the running it looks like the mega-spin-wizzles will be the main focus of the event.
Not that that’s a bad thing; progression is key to snowboarding and, whatever your opinion of them, it’s unarguable that double and triple corks are seriously impressive feats. No one’s yet landed back to back triples on a slopestyle course or at all in the pipe and that’s what the rumour mills are predicting for Sochi; the world and all of us will be watching.
Watching a field of competitors for which a 720 can be part of a winning run, you can expect plenty of slow and tweaked spins that’ll be a pleasure to watch.
But for the true style aficionados, those who wish for the days when a backside corked 540 was enough for a first place finish, there is great news: there is already a style event primed and ready to go for Sochi 2014, you just haven’t noticed yet. Focus your eyes on the women’s freestyle snowboard slopestyle.
If the last rounds of qualifying event have shown us nothing else, the women’s events are going to go off. With slopestyle jumps primed for triple-cork air times of around three seconds, any spin less than a double cork 1080 has to become infinitely slower. Watching a field of competitors for which a 720 can be part of a winning run, you can expect plenty of slow and tweaked spins that’ll be a pleasure to watch. It also provides interesting debates as to what relatively simple tricks should score higher, for instance what wins between a switch back 540 up against a frontside 720?
Also, there are some tricks that just look better performed by girls due to different strength/flexibility ratio. Take a back noseslide or front blunt for example; I’ll lay the claim that the most average female rider can ooze way more steeze out of either of these tricks compared to any of their male counterparts.
And what a field there will be to watch; certified slopestyle legend and smiley face Jamie Anderson qualified over the weekend in style, winning three finals with three different runs, showing that variety rather than stock runs are as important to snowboarding as ever. She floated back 5s of both the regular and switch variety, making them look effortless on Mammoth’s giant booters.
Norway’s Silje Norendal is more than likely to make an appearance, and with a beast of a todeo frontside 720 under her belt she’ll be sure to rack up the style and flow points; her victory over Anderson at last year’s X Games Europe might even suggest she could grab gold in Sochi. Spencer O’Brien from Canada-land also has this trick on lock, as well as the ability to stall out some gorgeous cab 5s.
Kiwi Christy Prior might just have squeaked in over the weekend and we hope so because her rail game is one of the best right now, male or female. Plus, her front threes stack up almost as good as Danny Davis’. Check out some shots of her cruising above, worst case scenario she can throw a more than decent method.
And finally Aimee Fuller can claim one of the best laid-out backflips in the business as well as super-stylee cab underflip tail grabs; how sweet would it be to see an Airblaster-inspired backie on the BBC?
But the best part of this event is going to be the simple fact that these women are going to show the world the real meaning of snowboarding; swapping out super-serious game faces for smiles and high-fives and injecting some fun into what could be some quite straight-faced Olympic proceedings. So tune in 630am on the 9th February to see some of the most fun entertaining and stylish snowboarding on the planet going down, it won’t disappoint.