Why You Should Watch Halfpipe Freeskiing, the *Other* Olympic Halfpipe Competition
Snowboarding tends to get all the halfpipe glory at the Olympics, but there's another group of athletes making the most of that icy tube: freeskiers.
It's hard to argue with the fact that, over the past 20 years, snowboarding has become one of the most popular events to watch in the Winter Olympics. Think of the marquee athletes: Shaun White, Jamie Anderson, Kelly Clark, Gretchen Bleiler. Even if you're not a fan, you probably recognize those names.
But during the last games, skiers joined snowboarders in the halfpipe, and the American competitors on two boards were just as skilled as those on one. But do you know Maddie Bowman, David Wise, Devin Logan, or Aaron Blunck? You should, because they're poised to make history in Pyeongchang. (Related: 12 Badass Female Athletes to Watch at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics)
Here, a few reasons why you should tune in to this year's halfpipe ski competition:
Halfpipe freeskiing is pretty new to the Olympics.
Watch it for the novelty of it! Despite an X Games history that dates back to 2002, halfpipe freeskiing only made its Olympic debut in Sochi, Russia, in the 2014 Winter Games. Snowboarding, on the other hand, has been an Olympic event since 1998. In order to be considered, halfpipe skiing had to standardize judging within competitions; during the 2010-2011 season, the U.S. Grand Prix, a qualifying event for Olympic snowboarding, added halfpipe skiing. In 2011, halfpipe skiing was approved for the next Winter Games (although it made its first official Olympic appear in the January 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Austria).
Americans absolutely dominate.
In Sochi, American halfpipe skiers David Wise and Maddie Bowman both took home the sport's first Olympic gold medals. Both of those athletes are heading to Pyeongchang to defend their titles-Bowman qualified back in January by winning the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass in Colorado, the fourth of five Olympic qualifying events; Wise earned his spot on Team USA by taking the top men's spot at the same event. If they win, they'll become the first two-time gold medalists in their event.
Rounding out Team USA are Sochi Olympians Brita Sigourney, who won the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain last week; Devin Logan, who made Olympic history by qualifying in the halfpipe and slopestyle events; Annalisa Drew; Alex Ferreira, who came in second to Wise at Mammoth and is headed to his first Olympics; Torin Yater-Wallace, who earned a spot on the 2014 team despite dealing with a collapsed lung; and Aaron Blunck, the 2017 X Games Aspen gold medalist. (Related: How Plyometrics and Powerlifting Helped Devin Logan Prepare for the Olympics)
Fun fact: Bowman, Logan, and Blunck helped design the NASA-inspired North Face uniforms the U.S. Freeskiing team will be wearing to compete in Pyeongchang:
It's like halfpipe snowboarding, but cooler.
The athletes get serious air.
The halfpipe walls are 22 feet high in both snowboarding and skiing, which makes them a serious launching pad for all those flips and twist. But the halfpipe skiers can regularly soar 20-plus feet above the lip of the pipe, a height only the best snowboards (ahem, Shaun White) can reach. That's because, with two skis instead of one board, skiers have more power and control than snowboarders.