Snowboarding has not had a gentle transition onto the biggest sports stage. The first snowboard gold medalist, Canadian Ross Rebagliati, tested positive for marijuana after winning in 1998 in Japan — which did not help the sport’s long struggle to legitimize itself. The same year, pipe’s biggest star, Norwegian Terje Haakonsen, boycotted the event because the IOC decided to let a skiing organizational body, the International Ski Federation (FIS), manage the events instead of a snowboarding body. Now, 16 years later, with slopestyle making its Olympic debut, the sport is facing a smattering of blockades to a graceful introduction.  

In early January, primetime Olympics Games host Bob Costas made comments about slopestyle in a TV interview that had the snow community up in arms. “I think the president of the IOC should be Johnny Knoxville,” Costas said. “Because basically this stuff is just ‘Jackass’ stuff they invented and called an Olympic sport.”

Perhaps more troubling, there is widely publicized concern for the quality of the course to meet riders’ needs (and skiers, since halfpipe and slopestyle are also debuting as a skiing event) due to weather and course construction.


A year before the games, organizers intended to assess the quality of the course in Sochi during test events, but the slopestyle events were cancelled due to rain and warm weather.

Also, at several of the FIS qualifying events, riders criticized the jumps for being too short and not the right shape to allow for certain tricks.

Right up to the beginning of this year’s games, riders were expressing their concern. On Feb. 3, a British newspaper reported on top riders’ disappointment with the course. “The last jump has a lot of impact on it and the takeoff is really long,” U.S. snowboarder Chas Guldemond, who lives in Truckee, told The Globe and Mail. “Some of the guys and girls are intimidated. I felt like I was dropping out of the sky.”

That same day, Norwegian rider Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone in practice on the rail portion of the course and was immediately out of the Olympics. Earlier this winter, he released a YouTube video that echoed the same complaints of poor course construction.

Snowboarding superstar Shaun White also suffered a wrist injury the day after Horgmo’s and said the course was “a little intimidating.” After deliberating, he withdrew from slopestyle competition.

Much of the criticism is centered on the FIS (still the governing body) not choosing Tahoe-based Snow Park Technologies to build the course, instead selecting Swedish Anders Forsell and his Snowpark Consulting. SPT is regarded by many as the premier course building company and has been contracted by the X Games, Red Bull, and Nike. Torah Bright of the Australian team, among others, has publicly criticized the organizers for not choosing SPT, which she feels is the best park construction company in the world.

In The Globe and Mail article, assistant race director Robero Moresi said the course will be altered, taking into consideration the feedback of the riders. On Feb. 5, it was reported that the combined height of all three of its jumps were reduced by about 6 feet and that snowboarders said the changes were an improvement.

Olympic slopestyle does have a bright side — South Lake Tahoe native Jamie Anderson took home the gold in women’s slopestyle snowboarding.

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  • Dave Zook

    Dave Zook has been aiming to turn interests in outdoor activities like snowboarding and surfing into a professional endeavor for quite some time. He is elated to be writing and editing for Moonshine Ink and still have time to explore the ample offerings of the Sierra.

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