Big air snowboarding and an alpine team event were approved the International Olympic Committee (IOC) this week as new event inclusions for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association had been among nations lobbying for inclusion of big air. U.S. World Cup stops were released by the F.I.S. as well.
The inclusion of big air is another step from the IOC in appealing to a more youth-oriented audience. The hugely successful slopestyle events at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi provided a great platform to launch big air as an additional medal opportunity for American athletes.
Big air was introduced at the 2003 FIS Snowboarding World Championships and was included on the World Cup tour in 2015. U.S. Snowboarding’s Ty Walker (Stowe, VT) won the first ever women’s World Cup this past season in Istanbul, Turkey.
“The inclusion of big air is another positive step from the IOC to incorporate more events that are more appealing to a younger audience in the Olympic schedule,” said USSA Snowboarding Program Director Jeremy Forster. “The ability to host big air events on the hill or in stadiums make it exciting and engaging for a variety of audiences.”
The alpine team event, first introduced at the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships in 2005, was a fan favorite at the 2015 Worlds in Vail/Beaver Creek. The event features a mixed team of two men and two ladies competing for their national teams in a head-to-head slalom with a knockout format each round. It is an exciting event for spectators and a unique opportunity from a broadcast standpoint, showcasing multiple sport starts from each nation.
“The alpine team event is a valuable event that has provided spectators and media with a new, very visual format that creates a high level of excitement,” said USSA’s Alpine Program Director Patrick Riml.
Meanwhile, skiing's governing body, FIS, released dates for U.S. World Cups for next season with traditional stops and one new one. the Aspen Internationals kick things off Nov. 28-29 with women's giant slalom and slalom. The Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek returns Dec. 4-6 for a men's downhill. Freestyle World Cups are set for Lake Placid, N.Y. Jan. 14-16 and Deer Valley, Utah Feb. 4-6. Squaw Valley, Calif. will host a Freeskiing World Cup March 11-13.
Photo: Big Air was a hit in this Red Bull competition in Korea; now set for Olympics (Manchul Kim)