Fans of the X Games know all about freeskiing, the flipping, twisting, two-planked cousin of snowboarding. In February, the sport will make its Olympic debut with two events — halfpipe and slopestyle — at the Sochi Winter Games.
Many of freeskiing’s top athletes, including Keri Herman of Bloomington, will start the race to Sochi at this weekend’s Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships. The four-day competition in Breckenridge, Colo., is the first Olympic selection event of the season for the two freeskiing disciplines. It also kicks off the Olympic selection season for snowboarding in halfpipe and slopestyle, another event making its first appearance at the Winter Games.
What’s at stake
The Olympic teams for slopestyle and halfpipe in both freeskiing and snowboarding will be chosen in January. The Dew Tour is the first of five selection events that will be part of the process. A large contingent of American stars will compete as part of an elite international field.
Who to watch
Shaun White became a global superstar via the halfpipe, winning two Olympic gold medals in that discipline. But when he started snowboarding at age 6, he rode slopestyle — and he will be trying to make the Olympic team in both disciplines this time. White plans to compete in both events this weekend, going against U.S. teammates Scotty Lago and Louie Vito in the halfpipe and Chas Guldemond and Canadian star Mark McMaster in slopestyle.
Kelly Clark of the U.S. and Torah Bright of Australia, the past two Olympic gold medalists in women’s snowboard halfpipe, highlight the field in that event. Other notable American entrants include Tom Wallisch, one of the most successful slopestyle skiers in history, and David Wise and Maddie Bowman, the 2013 world champions in freeski halfpipe.
Herman, who now lives in Breckenridge, is among the best women in the world in slopestyle freeskiing and will begin her pursuit of an Olympic berth this weekend. A former hockey player, she won the World Cup title last season, becoming the first American woman to do so. Herman has won three X Games silver medals and was third in Wednesday’s qualifying round. St. Louis Park native Grete Eliassen also competed in the qualifier but crashed on the first of two runs and did not advance.
Thursday, semifinals of men’s freeski slopestyle (10:30 a.m.) and snowboard superpipe (2 p.m.); Friday, finals of women’s freeski superpipe (10:30 a.m.) and snowboard slopestyle (4 p.m.), semifinals of men’s snowboard slopestyle (12:30 p.m.) and freeski superpipe ( 6 p.m.); Saturday, finals of snowboard superpipe (men 11 a.m./women 1:15 p.m.), women’s freeski slopestyle (3 p.m.) and men’s freeski superpipe (5:30 p.m.); Sunday, finals of men’s freeski slopestyle (11 a.m.) and snowboard slopestyle (2 p.m.).
NBC will show live coverage of the men’s snowboard superpipe final (11 a.m. Saturday) and the men’s freeski slopestyle final (11 a.m. Sunday). NBC Sports Network will televise the finals of the men’s freeski superpipe (midnight Saturday, tape delay) and the men’s snowboard slopestyle (2 p.m. Sunday).