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As you may be aware from a news piece posted in the summer the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are considering adding Slopestyle to the 2014 Winter Olympic in Sochi. This has been partly fuelled by the success of the Halfpipe over the past three events but also by the desire of the snowsports community to see snowboard and freestyle skiing's ever popular discipline included.
With this in mind it appears that one of the most influential figures in world snowboarding and co-founder of the TTR World Snowboard Tour, Terje Haakonsen, has written to the IOC to discuss the state of slopestyle and the effective implementation of the spectacle within the next Winter Olympics. One of the reasons this open letter is so newsworthy is due to Terje's past, as he famously boycotted the first ever Winter Olympic Halfpipe event back in 1998 after the IOC handed control of the event from the snowboarder-run ISF to the skier-run FIS.
It now appears the hugely influential character wishes to work with Jacques Rogge, the President of the IOC, to bring Slopestyle to the world famous event as successfully as possible.
Letter to the editor:
As the Olympic slopestyle/snowboarding discussion is peaking, it is time to cast some light on this defining topic for the future of competitive snowboarding. This upcoming weekend, the ski federation FIS introduces slopestyle to their program, on the same weekend as the best slopestyle riders are competing in the Dew Tour. And the IOC is about to decide if they will include slopestyle in the next Olympic program or not. Some remarkable events have taken place in the last year. Let us recap:
After the extraordinary TV rating success of the Vancouver halfpipe contest, top cats from the IOC and NBC saw the potential in expanding the snowboarding program at the next Olympics. Seeing the golden boy Shaun White go double at the next winter Olympics (Sochi 2014) would be a ratings wet dream. In the fall of 2009, USA, Canada and New Zealand had prepared a proposition for the ski federation FIS’s annual congress in Turkey, June 2010. The idea was to prepare slopestyle for the 2018 Olympics by introducing it at the FIS Snowboarding World Championships, as the IOC requires two successful World Championships before considering new sports for future games.
By then, the FIS delegates were euphoric at the hysteria that followed the snowboarding events in Vancouver. They decided to speed up the process, bypassing the existing requirements, by submitting an application to the IOC immediately – before slopestyle had been tried out at a single FIS world championships. It is reasonable to imagine they felt confident that the IOC would react positively to this application.
The only problem was that IOC had a lot on their plate at their next meeting, in Acapulco in October. The most disturbing topic was women ski jumping; a nightmare for the Olympic movement. Women ski jumpers have been fighting for years to enter the Olympics, but have faced serious opposition both within FIS and the IOC. Many believe women ski jumping (including members of the sports media) does not have enough participants, is low on quality and does not have the necessary international reach as a sport to be a credible Olympic event. Women ski jumpers had sued the IOC before the Vancouver Olympics for discrimination, but were ruled against by the Canadian legal system.
Allowing snowboard slopestyle (as well as twintip ski halfpipe and slopestyle) before solving the women ski jumping issue probably made the choice impossible for IOC. Rather than accepting some applications from some sports and denying others, they made one statement for all: We will wait and see the quality of the sports at the upcoming world championships. FIS has several world championships coming up this season, among them the Nordic Ski World Championships in Oslo, the Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain and the Freestyle World Championships in Deer Valley and Park City.
The only problem about this from a snowboarding perspective is that neither Molina nor Deer Valley/Park City had planned for a slopestyle! Even worse, Deer Valley actively bans snowboarding on a general basis and they do not have a terrain park. In Norway, where the snowboard federation is independent of FIS, and are part owners of the TTR/WSF World Snowboarding Championships in 2012, this whole situation culminated in a public debate. IOC executive board member Gerhard Heiberg admitted that IOC wanted to check out more than just FIS events when deciding upon the quality of slopestyle. As FIS did not have slopestyle on their Olympic program, this opened up for a new scenario in the debate: if the IOC could look at non-FIS events, could they also approve these events as qualifiers for the Olympics?
Everyone working with top level snowboarding contest knows how much the date conflicts in Olympic qualifying years is hurting the sport. This has been bad before, but in 2013, when riders are qualifying for both halfpipe and slopestyle, it has the potential to be a nightmare. And this is the fundamental problem of competitive snowboarding: it will never reap its full potential before the Olympic issue is solved. Snowboarding is not a 4 year cycle event. It is a daily operation where progress is happening in all corners of the world – summer, winter, spring and fall. At the moment, the Olympic halfpipe finals is only good for the podium winners, the IOC and the broadcasters. It does not help the sport as a whole.
The potential for date conflict is the most apparent problem. This was cruelly exposed when FIS all of a sudden decided to include slopestyle on the program at the La Molina Snowboarding World Championships – a mere two months before the event! This was obviously a move to impress the IOC before the slopestyle decision was made, but it was not a good move for the sport: the slopestyle contest in Molina happens on exactly the same dates as the Dew Tour stop in Killington. All Dew Tour riders, being the best slopestyle riders in the world, have been already committed to these events, meaning the FIS World Champion in slopestyle (and in halfpipe for that matter) will be crowned without the best riders attending.
Competitive snowboarding has fantastic potential. Right now, judging formats, slope design, prize money, TV production/distribution and rider services are progressing fast in TTR, X Games and Dew Tour events. These are the best events in the world. But they are outside the Olympic family. As the organizers as the biggest winter sports event in the world, we believe that the IOC holds a corporate responsibility for ensuring a workable solution for the sport. This will not only realise the potential of the sport, but also fast-track the quality of snowboarding contests at the Olympics. All of us, including event organizers, FIS, IOC and federations, should find a solution for the better good of the sport. Otherwise, the riders will be the main losers. They will be forced into making impossible choices between conflicting events in 2013 – on any given weekend throughout the season.
We believe a good solution could be a common Olympic ranking, not sanctioned by FIS or TTR, but a joint ranking list based on results from the best events in the world. By embracing this, the IOC would take a credible position for the youth of the world and take charge in the ongoing action sports revolution. We are willing to talk to find a good solution for the sport. But we are also willing to keep fighting for snowboarding like we have done for over a decade. The Olympic system for snowboarding is wrong; preserving the status quo is not an option.
Terje Haakonsen Henning Andersen Owner and organiser of The Arctic Challenge
Now we've all heard of the Green Cross Code and most of us grew up walking to school with lolly pop ladies keeping us safe from speeding cars, but did you know there is a code of conduct for the mountains?
There have been more and more cases of piste-rage hitting the press over the last few seasons, including a story on PlanetSki where an adult had to be restrained for hitting a 15 year old girl! With this in mind I thought I would share the F.I.S. Code of Conduct with you, so you can go on holiday with the peace of mind that you are skiing responsibly.
F.I.S. Code of Conduct
The code of conduct is really common sense and has been devised so we can all enjoy the mountain and ensure that accidents, which do happen, are dealt with safely and swiftly. Hopefully the only concerns will be skiing safely and respecting others, which includes not skiing over their equipment in lift queues. The mountains are there to be enjoyed.
The season has started, the snow is falling and Christmas is almost here. For skiers and snowboarders it is that time of year where we are either looking forward to our next trip or in the middle of planning it.
To help out the snow addicts out there I have put together a list of iconic ski and snowboard clips that will help you drift off into a world of snow related fun, and to offer some much needed pre-Christmas procrastination. With literally hundreds of ski and snowboard films out there and more available each season the list is an eclectic mix of old school, fun and down right insane films. If you haven't seen the full length videos than get yourself to you local ski shop, iTunes or YouTube and watch them in full - once you're at home of course!
This happens to be my favourite all time snowboard film. It has an awesome sound track, some incredible riding and a real feel that the Robot Food guys are having a great time hanging out with their friends on the mountain. To me this sums up snowboarding.
That's It, That's All
That's It, That's All is one of the most impressive snowboard films of all time. It was one of the first mainstream HD films and rumour has it Quiksilver blew the equivalent of a year's marketing budget on it. Travis Rice is proving why he's the world's best snowboarder and the riding and the locations in That's It, That's All can only be described as epic.
Anomaly is from the guys at Teton Gravity research, who this year bought us the first 3D ski film Light The Wick and Jeremy Jones' incredible documentary film Deeper. My favourite section is with Candide Thovex combining huge kickers with his tight knit skills.
Steep may be one of the older films on offer here yet it still boasts some of skiing's biggest legends and combines them with some incredible lines. The film was more of a documentary and includes the godfather of heli-skiing, Doug Coombs, at his best.
The TB series from Standard Films is possibly the most influential and renowned out there. Every film is incredible though Jussi Oksanen's section and the big mountain riding in TB8 make it the standout film of the series.
The guys from Absinthe films took the place of Robot Food and make snowboard films that combine fun, great music and incredible riders. Pop, Futureproof, More, Neverland and this year's film Now Here are all worth a watch (and purchasing) yet Optimistic stands out to me. Mikey Le Blanc's section is daft yet brilliant and who said there was no snow in 2007?
Blizzard of Ahhhs
The Blizzards of Ahhhs is a truly old school ski film, but it proves Glen Plake has been one of the world's top skiers for a very long time. For the fans of moguls, '80s outfits and Chamonix this is a real treat.
Over the past couple of seasons brands have started making online series and podcasts instead of full length movies. Salomon's FreeskiTV has been a great success with some awesome skiing on offer, the Mica Heli-skiing episode (#6) is definitely a highlight with five minutes of mouth-watering powder on offer.
Draw The Line
Mack Dawg Productions (MDP) have always been among the forefront of the snow film scene. Draw the Line is one of my favourites and the Trapped in Chile section is amazing. Imagine being trapped in a resort with too-much snow to even get up the mountain, then throw in some Dolly Parton and you've got an all time great.
91 Words For Snow
Apparently the Inuits have 91 Words for snow, and this documentary-style film is one of the best around. Put together by Dave Benedek this film has some all time inspirational sections, including Mike Basich's epic trip to Valdez in Alaska. It's a change from Benedek's Robot Food films but it equally as enjoyable to watch.
Hopefully there are a few of your favourites in there and this has got you in the mood for this winter. The snow may be reaping havoc in UK airports, on public transport and on streets up and down the country but just think how good the mountains are right now. If you haven't got your 2011 trip booked up, maybe it's time to start thinking about it.
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