“Big Air” is about to become the buzzword of 2017. You need to be ready.
As NBC News recently put it, there’s a pretty good chance the ancient Greeks never snowboarded “big air” when they created the Olympics. In addition to the embarrassing mishaps it may have caused tunic-bound snowboarders, it’s hard to imagine the vantage points for watching men and women soar off of rocky cliffs would have been very good without modern TV cameras.
But next year will mark the debut for the sport, which involves performing tricks without benefit of contact with the earth, at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
It’s going to be a wild Olympics. South Koreans are nervous that international visitors will confuse Pyeongchang, a county in eastern South Korea, with Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea. In the logo, at least, the county suddenly sprouted a capital “C” in the middle to make sure people understand the difference. Now, it’s officially PyeongChang.
And, of course, there’s always the threat of nuclear war. But other than that, the big news is that “big air” is coming to the Winter Olympics.
Here’s a primer on snowboarding big air we’ve found for you.
Basically, big air snowboarding is freestyle snowboarding. Just as in skating, judges determine who the winners are on a point system. They’re looking for artistry, innovation, and sheer daring. The more dangerous a routine looks, the better it will score.
The arrival of big air snowboarding at the South Korean Olympics culminated years of lobbying from snowboarding organizations. It’s part of an effort toward modernizing the Winter Games with new, youth-focused sports.
In PyeongChang, the contestants will start atop a huge snow ramp. They’ll then perform massive tricks off a gigantic jump.
At 49 meters tall, the South Korean ramp will be the biggest in the world. Its slope reaches 40 degrees at its steepest point.
On the world cup circuit, there is a qualifying and final round. In the finals, each rider takes three jumps, with the top two scores counting.
Here’s a few names to watch — the top performing Americans in the sport.
Team USA’s Ryan Stassel is the reigning slopestyle world champion. He recently finished third in the big air test event in PyeongChang. He’s currently No. 2 in the international big air standings.
Colorado’s Chris Corning is a 17-year-old slopestyle snowboarder who has nearly a dozen top-10 finishes in the last year. He’s got 4 wins under his belt, with a fifth-place finish at a big air world cup earlier this month in Milan, Italy.
And check out Red Gerard, also from Colorado, who is just 15 years old. Three other big American names to watch: Chas Guldemond, Eric Willett and Brock Crouch.
Among women, the LeBron James of snowboarding is Jamie Anderson. She’s the 2014 slopestyle gold medalist and the most decorated slopestyle snowboarder in U.S. history. She’s currently No. 10 in the standings.
And then there’s Ty Walker of Vermont — a 2014 Olympian in slopestyle at the young age of 16. She won the first women’s big air world cup ever held in December 2014.
2016 Youth Olympian Hailey Langland is currently No. 2 in the world after finishing second at the Milan World Cup. Fellow American Julia Marino is No. 3 and Jessika Jenson, also a 2014 Olympian in slopestyle, is seventh in the standings, according to TeamUSA.org