Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Judging the Competition

If you've ever watched the X Games or a US Open competition, you understand how big these events have gotten in both skiing and snowboarding. Have you ever wondered how the judges decided what score to give an athlete?

I come from a big ski family. A couple cousins and myself grew up on the 1,000ft vertical Antelope Butte in Wyoming (which has had to close since) and have ended up working in the ski industry in some form or another. My cousin Dan Allen is a freakishly good skier who travels around judging ski competitions in the winter. I asked him to answer a few questions so we could get inside a judge's head.

What competitions have you judged? I have judged the U.S. Open, the
Aspen Open, the Freeski Tour, and the Spring Massive. All these events
consist of slopestyle and halfpipe, while the US Open has a big air
event and the Spring Massive has big benefit rail jam.

What kinds of things are judges looking for? Anymore, skiing is getting
so competitive and so many people can do all the same tricks. So it
comes down to creativity, style, consistency, technicality, grabbing,
going big and of course landing. We really want to see kids spin
multiple directions both switch and forward, and to have good technical
rail tricks, all while having solid grabs and good clean style.

How many judges are typically judging a competition? In big events like
the US open we usually have 6 judges that all work together. It works
out well because it gets broken down into sections. So if someone kills
in the first and second sections, but messes up down in the last section
they aren't going to move on. Consistency is huge.

What all goes into an athlete's score? Well the scores are based out of
100pts, so we have to figure our average run, which is usually around a
50-55 and work from there. If someone has a clean run with technical
spins, solid grabs and good tech rail tricks they are obviously
going to go up from there. If someone goes through the course and spins
9's or 10's all four different ways with different corks, including a
double cork and kills the rails they are going to get somewhere in the
high 90's (Jon Olsson in last year's Open).

What is your favorite competition to judge? Definitely the US Open. It
is cool to see all the up and coming kids and see what they can put
together. I think last year on the 2 qualifying days we watched 600
runs. Also, being able to judge the men's slopestyle finals last year
was nuts, so technical, it was amazing. And then there is the big air,
that's always amazing.

What is the best trick you've seen so far in a comp? That is so hard to
say. I have seen so much cool stuff. TJ's (Schiller) sw 14 high mute 2 years ago in
the open big air was ridiculous. Jon's (Olsson) entire slopestyle run last year
was up there. As watching any run from PK Hunder is always amazing. I
just love smooth stylish spins.

What is most important to you (style, tech, etc)? ha, tech style. PK
Hunder's forward left 9's with a true nose is pretty much the definition
of style. But, I love anything that looks effortless. I would way rather
see someone spin a smooth 5 that they grab the entire thing rather than
someone huck a scary looking 9 or 10. The 5 is going to get way more

Thanks for the info Dan!

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