Freestyle skiing began in the 1930s, when Norwegian skiers began performing acrobatics during alpine and cross-country training. Later, non-competitive professional skiing exhibitions in the
United Statesfeatured performances of what would later be called freestyle. Aerial skiing was developed in about 1950 by Olympic gold medalist Stein Eriksen.
Freestyle skiing began to develop further throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, when it was often known as "
hot-dogging." Bob Burnspioneered this style in Sun Valley, Idahobeginning in 1965. [cite book
title =Breaking Even
publisher =Pictorial Histories Publishing Company
url =http://www.dickbarrymore.com/book4.asp] In the late 1960s other followers of the style included
Wayne Wong, John Clendenin, and Tom LeRoy. Some people thought that this style of skiing was too dangerous and did not want it to be an Olympic sport. The free-form sport had few rules and wasn't without danger; knee injuries became a common phenomenon for professional freestylers.
International Ski Federation(FIS) recognized freestyle as a sport in 1979 and brought in new regulations regarding certification of athletes and jump techniques in an effort to curb the dangerous elements of the competitions. The first World Cup series was staged in 1980 and the first World Championships took place in 1986 in Tignes, Francewhere skiers such as James Willingham competed. Freestyle skiing was a demonstration event at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988. Mogul skiing was added to the official programme of the Albertville Games in 1992, and aerials was added for the Lillehammer Games in 1994.
A group of skiers in the early 90s, including freestyle pionieers like Mike Douglas, J.P Auclair, Vincent Dorian and others started taking skiing to the snowboard parks. They became know as the 'New Canadian Airforce' and helped not only to pioneer aireal and rail based tricks, but also approached companies with ski designs featuring a twin tip system. The twin tip works much like a snowboard in allowing the user to ski normally or ski backwards (switch). The first company to market twin tip skis was Salomon in 1997. From there freestyle began to gain more popularity and companies started making backcountry style twin tips for skiers to push the limits of freestyle and take it away from the snowparks.
Currently (2006) there are two main branches of freestyle skiing: one encompassing the more traditional events of moguls and
aerials, and a newer branch often called new school, comprising events such as halfpipe, big air, slopestyle, and big mountain or freesking. New school skiing has grown so much that new ski companies were created, companies that strictly make twin-tip skis — skis that are designed for taking off and landing "fakie", or "switch" (backwards) on jumps and rails. Such companies as 4FRNT, Liberty, Ninthward, Line, Armada, High Society, and Faction skisall specialize in twin-tip skis, although more "mainstream" companies such as ATOMIC,Salomon, Rossignol, Volkl, K2, and Dynastaralso make many models of twin-tip skis. Skiercrossis a new Olympic event and is currently under the banner of Freestyle skiing even though it is a race without a judged component.
Aerialists ski off jumps, usually built of wood, sometimes metal and then covered with snow, that propel them up to 40-50 feet in the air. Once in the air, professional aerialists perform multiple flips and twists before landing on a 34- to 39-degree inclined landing hill about 100 feet in length. The top male aerialists can currently perform triple back flips with up to four or five twists. Quadruple back flips have been performed on snow (purposely) by four men: Frank Bare, Matt Chojnaki, Eric Bergoust and Nicholas Fontaine. Currently (2006) quad flips are not legal in competition.
There are two varieties of aerial skiing competitions: upright and inverted. In upright aerials, movements in which a skier's feet come higher than his or her head are illegal. This is the most common type of aerials competition for junior competitors. In inverted aerials, skiers execute elaborate flips and somersaults.
Aerial skiing is a judged sport, and competitors are judged on jump takeoff (20%), jump form (50%) and landing (30%). A degree of difficulty (DD) is then factored in for a total score.
Aerialists train for their jumping maneuvers during the summer months by skiing off specially constructed water ramps and landing in a large swimming pool. A water ramp consist of a wooden ramp covered with a special plastic mat that when lubricated with sprinklers allows an athlete to ski down the ramp towards a jump. The skier then skis off the wooden jump and lands safely in a large swimming pool. A burst of air is sent up from the bottom of the pool just before landing to break up the surface area of the water, thus softening the landing of the impact. Skiers sometimes reinforce the skis that they use for water-ramping with 1/4 inch of fiberglass.
Summer training also includes training on trampolines, diving boards, and other acrobatic or gymnastic training apparatuses.
Ski ballet (Acroski)
No longer a part of competitive freestyle skiing, ski ballet (later renamed acroski) was a third freestyle discipline. Competitions were conducted from the late-1960s until the mid-1990s. Ballet involved a choreographed routine of flips, rolls, leg crossings, jumps, and spins performed on a smooth slope. After the mid-1970s the routine was performed to music for 90 seconds. A panel of judges scored the performance. It was a
demonstration sportin the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics.
* [http://www.bcfreestyle.com/ BC Freestyle Ski Association] - Provincial sport association for freestyle skiing in British Columbia
* [http://www.ussa.org/ U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association] - The National Governing Body for Freestyle Competition
* [http://www.usskiteam.com/ U.S. Ski Team] - Bio information and stories on U.S. Freestyle Ski Team athletes
* [http://www.usolympicteam.com/21.htm#sport11859 2006 U.S. Olympic Ski Team bios] ... includes freestyle
* [http://www.shredbook.com/browse.php?cat=Ski&showBNav=true Skiing Slang and Tricks]
* [http://www.freestyleski.com/ Canadian Freestyle Ski Association]
* [http://www.kooter4real.com/ Kooter Brown Snow Inspired Fashions]
* [http://www.elanskis.com/pc.asp Freestyle skis]
* [http://ski.mountainzone.com/interviews/2000/barrymore/html/photo11.html K2 Performers] - The original K2 ski company freestyle demonstration team
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