The Beginner’s Guide to the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympic Games are a multi-sport event held every four years. In 2014 saw the Winter Olympics taking place in Sochi in Russia.
Here is a quick guide that explains what the Winter Olympics is all about.

Some of the original sports were alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating. Other events have been added as time went on, and some of them, such as luge, short track speed skating, and freestyle skiing have earned a permanent spot on the Olympic programme. Others, such as speed skiing, bandy, and skijoring were demonstration sports but were never incorporated as Olympic sports. Lately, snowboard cross and ski cross have been added.

SKI AND SNOWBOARD DISCIPLINES EXPLAINED

Alpine skiing

Alpine skiing involves all skiing events which occur on a downhill course and do not involve ramps or bumps.

The Olympic Alpine competition consists of 10 events: five for women and five for men. The rules are the same for men and women, but the courses differ. In all cases, time is measured to .01 seconds and ties are permitted.

Downhill

The Downhill features the longest course and the highest speeds in Alpine skiing. Each skier makes a single run down a single course and the fastest time determines the winner.

Slalom

The Slalom features the shortest course and the quickest turns. Each skier makes two runs down two different courses on the same slope. Both runs take place on the same day. The times are added and the fastest total time determines the winner. Athletes are not allowed to take training runs through the courses, but on race day, they can inspect each course by skiing slowly alongside it. Inspection of the second run does not begin until all the racers have had a chance to ski the first run.

Giant slalom

Also known as the GS. It is a looser version of the slalom, with fewer turns and wider, smoother turns. As in the Slalom, each skier makes two runs down two different courses on the same slope. Both runs take place on the same day, usually with the first run held in the morning and the second run in the afternoon. The times are added, and the fastest total time determines the winner. Athletes are not allowed to take training runs through the courses, but on race days, they can inspect each course by skiing slowly alongside it. Inspection of the second run does not begin until all the racers have had a chance to ski the first run.

Super-G

Super-G stands for Super Giant Slalom, an event that combines the speed of Downhill with the more precise turns of Giant Slalom. The course is shorter than Downhill but longer than a Giant Slalom course.

Each skier makes one run down a single course and the fastest time determines the winner.

Super – Combined

The Super – Combined event consists of one Downhill, or one Super G, followed by one Slalom run. The times are added together and the fastest total time determines the winner. The combined downhill and the combined slalom are contested independently of the regular downhill and slalom events, and the
combined courses are shorter than the regular versions.

Cross Country skiing

The Cross Country skiing discipline involves racing over undulating terrain along a series of prepared tracks.

Skiers set off at intervals and race against the clock rather than against each other, with the exception of the pursuit-style races.

Cross Country involves two different skiing techniques: Classic and Freestyle. The Classic technique is the traditional one: the skis are kept parallel and never abandon or deviate from the two tracks marked on the course. The Freestyle technique allows the skier to choose a style similar to skating, pushing the skis from both legs. Gripping wax is generally applied to the skis to prevent them from slipping backwards on the uphill sections.

The Cross-Country discipline comprises twelve different Cross-Country skiing events. Three events are the same as those held at Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games 2002 – the 10/15km classic individual start, the fourperson relays, and the sprint freestyle.

The format of the pursuit has changed, with the distance increasing to 30km (15km each leg) for men and 15km (7.5km each leg) for women, and there is now a pit-stop to change equipment from Classic to reestyle between the two legs. The race starts with a mass start in Classic technique.

The Team Sprint was a new Olympic event, introduced in Turin. This involves two-person teams, each skiing the course three times in Classic Technique. The events are:

Sprint (1.5km Freestyle for men and women)

The sprint is the shortest event on the Cross Country program and any style of skiing is permitted. Sprint events begin with a qualifying round and the top skiers advance to a knockout phase, with quarter-finals, semi-finals and an A and B final.

Pursuit (15km women, 30km men)

The men’s and women’s pursuit race feature two parts. From a mass start, the athletes race in the Classical style (7.5km women, 15km men). During a pit-stop at half way, the athletes change equipment from the Classic to the Freestyle technique. The second part is a Freestyle race (7.5km women, 15km men), with
competitors starting the Freestyle portion staggered according to their finish in the first half Classic style.

The athlete who crosses the finish line first wins.

Interval Start (Classic – 10km women, 15km men)

In the Classic events competitors start at 30 sec intervals and the winner is the skier with the fastest time.

Team Sprint Classic

There are two skiers per team, each of whom skis the course three times. The event has around 20 teams, with two heats of 10 teams. The top five teams in each heat advance to the final. The Team Sprint is run on the same course as the Individual Sprint and held in the Classic technique.

Relays (4x5km women, 4x10km men)

Each team has four skiers, each of whom skis one of the four 5km (women) or 10km (men) relay legs. The first two legs of the relay are skied Classic style and the final two are Freestyle.

Mass Start (Freestyle – 30km women, 50km men)

Competitors start simultaneously, lined up in rows. The first competitor across the finish line wins the race.

Freestyle skiing

Freestyle skiing consists of Aerials and Moguls plus the events of Ski Cross, and the newly added Olympic events of Halfpipe and Slopestyle. All are dynamic and spectacular to watch making them firm favourites with the crowds. Ski Cross was added to the Olympic programme in time for Vancouver 2010 with Halfpipe
and Slopestyle due to make their debut at Sochi 2014.

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.

The Ski Cross course 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 group of four skiers start simultaneously and attempt to reach the end of the course. The first two to cross the finish line will advance to the next round.

The final and semi-final rounds determine 1st to 4th and 5th to 8th places, respectively.

Halfpipe

The Freestyle Halfpipe event is new to the Olympic programme, making its first appearance in 2014 in Sochi. Halfpipe is held on a half-cylindrical tube shaped into the snow. It is approximately 120-130 m long with a gradient of 16-17%. Using speed gained on the slope, skiers come up over the rim of the pipe to
perform jumps, rotations and other mid-air manoeuvres or tricks. The object is to perform difficult manoeuvres with perfect form and land the run.

Slopestyle

The Freestyle Slopestyle event is new to the Olympic programme and will make its first appearance in 2014 in Sochi. Slopestyle has evolved into a unique format where riders compete to achieve the highest score over a range of obstacles. Courses are unique to each event and usually include a range of jumps, rails and boxes. Competitors aim to perform the most technical tricks whilst getting the highest amplitude from the jumps.

Moguls

A moguls course is made up of a series of bumps and mounds in the snow. Skiers absorb the impact of the bumps by bending at the knees and hips. In a good run, shoulders remain parallel to the finish line, turns should be quick and short, and skis should not leave the snow surface, except at predetermined jumps.
In competitive Moguls events, competitors aim to perform aerial manoeuvres where they hit two large jumps, placed one-third and two-thirds of the way down the run. Inverted moves are not permitted. Off each jump, skiers typically combine moves such as a spread-eagle, twister, helicopter, daffy, iron cross or
backscratcher.

Aerials

In Aerial competitions, athletes perform various combinations of flips and twists off snowpacked jumps as high as 4 metres, (13 feet), with takeoff angles as steep as 70 degrees. Skiers choose a point on the in-run to begin, calculating the location carefully to attain the necessary speed to execute a planned manoeuvre.
Concave aerial’s ramps come in various heights – the smallest is used primarily for training.

The radius of the concave section of the big and medium jumps varies. The competitor chooses the one most suitable for the planned manoeuvre. Both men and women compete with multiple twisting somersaults.

Skiers will drop from a height equal to that of a three- or four-story building. The landing area has a 37-degree gradient and is covered in soft, churned snow to absorb the impact of the landings.

Competitors are assessed on the technicality of their manoeuvre and whether or not they land the run.

Snowboarding

Snowboarding competition consists of both racing and freestyle snowboarding: Snowboard Cross, Halfpipe and Slopestyle.

There are four Snowboard events: Halfpipe, Parallel Giant Slalom, (PGS), which appeared for the first time at The Salt Lake City Games in 2002, with Snowboard Cross (SBX) introduced in Turin. The Snowboard Slopestyle event will make its first appearance in 2014 at Sochi.

The four Snowboard events are as follows:

Snowboard Cross

The Snowboard Cross course 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 slope. Structures on the course resemble those found in Ski Cross events. A series of blue and red gates and triangular flags marks the
course and indicate entrances to obstacles. Physical endurance and strength play a key role in Snowboard Cross as athletes ski four to five runs lasting 60 seconds or longer. A group of four snowboarders start simultaneously and attempt to reach the end of the course. The first two to cross the finish line will advance to the next round. The final and semi-final rounds determine 1st to 4th and 5th to 8th places,
respectively.

Parallel giant slalom

The parallel giant slalom is a competition in which two riders race down the same slope on two parallel courses, outlined with gates and triangular flags, blue on the left course and red on the right course. The setting of the courses, the terrain and snow coverage must be as identical as possible.

Halfpipe

The Halfpipe event is held on a half-cylindrical tube shaped into the snow. It is approximately 120-130 m long with a gradient of 16-17%. Using speed gained on the slope, snowboarders come up over the rim of the pipe to perform jumps, rotations and other mid-air manoeuvres or tricks. The object is to perform difficult manoeuvres with perfect form and land the run.

Slopestyle

The Slopestyle event is new to the Olympic programme and will make its first appearance in 2014 in Sochi.

Sochi Snowboard Slopestyle Course specification

Technical details of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games Slopestyle course

Slopestyle has evolved into a unique format where riders compete to achieve the highest score over a range of obstacles. Courses are unique to each event and usually include a range of jumps, rails and boxes.

Competitors aim to perform the most technical tricks whilst getting the highest amplitude from the jumps.

The slopestyle competition venue, which will stage a total of 20 Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard competitions, is located at the Rosa Khutor ski area. The snowboard slopestyle course for Sochi 2014 is 635 metres long at Rosa Khutor , and features three jumps that get progressively bigger, allowing the athletes the chance to build momentum and execute their biggest and best jumps at the bottom of the course. There is approximately 100 metres between each jump, with the ramps being about 10 metres high.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How are Halfpipe and Slopestyle judged?

Halfpipe and Slopestyle judging, like figure-skating judging, is subjective—in other words, it’s not a timed event. Tricks don’t have an assigned degree of difficulty or specific points awarded~ to them. The athletes don’t have to call out their runs ahead of time.

The Olympic Halfpipe is scored by five judges and one head judge based on the following criteria: execution of tricks, variety of tricks, difficulty, pipe use, and amplitude.

The Olympic Slopestyle is also scored by five judges and one head judge based on the following criteria:

execution of tricks, variety of tricks, difficulty, use of features, and amplitude.

For Slopestyle skiers and snowboarders use the same course?

Yes, if they are competing at the same event such as the X Games and it will be the same course at the Olympics.

Does every Slopestyle / Halfpipe have the same dimensions?

No they are all different although there are guidelines for top level standard in both.

What does “corked” mean?

Rotations can either be flat where there is no somersaulting element or “corked” where there is a somersault element within the spin. Many riders perform double corked spins and the top riders are now performing triple corked spins.

What is a canon?

Rail, jib, wall ride, canon, rainbow, flat down, kink, butter pad, bonk are all Slopestyle features that are not kickers or jumps.

What is the coping and the deck?

In Halfpipe, the coping or lip is the edge of the pipe. And the deck is the flat part at the top of the wall that extends from the edge of the pipe. If a rider “decks out” they have landed outside of the pipe on the deck and this usually results in a crash.

What does vert mean?

In a Halfpipe, the vert describes the last part of the wall where it should just reach vertical to send the rider out to perform a trick and then back in to land in the wall of the pipe.

She knuckled the jump. What does that mean?

On a kicker, the deck is the area between the take off and the landing of the jump. And the knuckle is the transition between the deck and the landing. If a rider knuckles a jump then they didn’t quite travel far enough to make the landing, often resulting in a crash.

GB First ever Olympic medal on snow – Jenny Jones get Bronze in Slopestyle Snowboarding

Jenny Jones took bronze in the first-ever women’s snowboard slopestyle in Sochi, defying those who claimed, at 33, her time had probably passed.

She’s the former chalet girl who ended a 90-year wait for a British Winter Olympic medal on snow.

It’s all about Jenny Jones today. Did you know she won Team GB’s first medal at Sochi 2014 quicker than Lizzie Armitstead got Great Britain off the mark at London 2012 with her road race silver?

Jenny Jones Snowboarder with Bronze Medal from Sochi WInter Olympic Games

Jones is a pioneer of her sport and a two-time X Games champion but many thought the discipline’s inclusion at the Olympics came too late. They were wrong, even though she was the oldest in the final by more than six years.

She needed to come through the semi-finals to make the final 12 that decided the medals and then put down a second run that had her in the gold medal position for 15 minutes.

Over the course of the next 45 minutes she waited anxiously as others tried to dislodge her, dropping down to silver and then bronze before, finally, securing her podium place.

American Jamie Anderson took gold and Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi claimed silver and Jones took the last step on the podium by just a quarter of a point, the slenderest of margins possible.

“I’m feel very proud to have won a bronze medal for my country, I can’t believe it’s our first on snow,” she said.

“I never thought this would be a possibility because it was only three years ago that slopestyle was added to the Olympics and I’d never competed for my country.

“It feels amazing. I cannot believe it, I just can’t believe it. Even when I was in the gold medal position I knew I was going to drop but I didn’t know how far. I am just so happy that I stayed on the podium.

“It was so difficult waiting. I thought I did my best run and landed it as best as I could, thankfully it was enough.

“But it was a long waiting game. It feels just ridiculous right now. You sense the world is watching and you had to control that part of things and not let it get to you too much.”

“I tried to stay relaxed by doing some meditation and yoga and burning some sage,” said snowboard slopestyle gold medallist Jamie Anderson in her press conference.
“What did you do Jenny?” the moderator asked.
“I watched an episode of Downton Abbey,” said the British snowboarder.
Snowboarders have different ways of preparing for their big moment at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park

“I feel very proud to have won a bronze medal for my country, I can’t believe it’s our first on snow.”

Jenny Jones erases Gina Hathorn from the record books. Her slalom fourth at the 1968 Grenoble Games was the previous best by a British snow sport athlete at the Winter Olympics

“I don’t feel like an old lady, these girls are a lovely bunch and they keep me young and allow me out late to party every now and then.”

Olympic bronze medallist Jenny Jones believes age is just a number, despite being the oldest in the snowboard slopestyle final by six years

“Jones is amazing, she’s a legend in the sport and I’m so proud of her and I’m so proud to be her team-mate. She’s the pioneer of women’s snowboarding. She put it on the map for the UK and proved it was possible that a bunch of Brits can compete against the world’s best.”

Team GB’s snowboard slopestyle semi-finalist Aimee Fuller on team-mate Jenny Jones

Keep up with all the latest from Team GB on the Team GB website