Words by Eric Meyers
Photos by Peter Morning
A little more is on the line this winter when the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix comes to Mammoth Mountain, as the USSA announced this week that the event’s halfpipe and slopestyle competitions have received FIS Freestyle World Cup status. The event will now directly affect the efforts of U.S. Ski Team Members that are vying for the chance to represent their country in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The 2014 Winter Olympics will be the first time that slopestyle skiing has ever appeared in the legendary event, and Mammoth Mountain has already begun preparations for the event to ensure that our sport’s first foray into the Olympiad goes smoothly.
The 22-foot tall, 550-foot long superpipe is nearing completion in the Mammoth Unbound Main Park, and it won’t be long before athletes from all over the world are flying to the resort to begin their winter training schedules. While the superpipe will be open soon, it will receive a fresh rebuild mid-winter so the athletes have brand new walls to work with at the Grand Prix. Over on the park side, the season started off with plenty of features to help skiers and snowboarders shake off the summer rust, with three jumps and 14 rails.
Mammoth team rider Parker White.
The Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix slopestyle will take place in Main Park – voted Best Terrain Park in the West by the readers of SKI Magazine – with much of the course viewable from the warmth of the lodge. “USSA is looking to us to set the standard for the Sochi Olympics,” said Mammoth Unbound Terrain Park Manager Michael Gregory. The setup will take much inspiration from the 2011 TTR Five-Star Grand Prix of Snowboarding event at Mammoth, which featured a pair of double pads with jib features, followed by a 55-foot jump, butter box, and ending with a pair of back-to-back jumps in the sixty to eighty foot range.
USSA's Grand Prix circuit started with snowboarding in 1995 and has continued as the longest standing top circuit in the sport. Freeskiing was added to the program a year ago with a debut event at Copper, and the Colorado resort will also host a halfpipe skiing event to kick off this year’s circuit as well.
“Mammoth's event this year plays a role as freeskiers will be focused on earning enough FIS points to be eligible for Olympic selection, so the Mammoth event will be the first time people have had an opportunity to do that in the U.S.,” said Grand Prix Tour Director Eric Webster. “It is also significant because it will be the first time that FIS has awarded overall World Cup titles (the globes) in Freeskiing.”
Mammoth team rider Chris Logan
The Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix season culminates in Mammoth from February 29 to March 3, so start making travel plans now to see the Unbound Ski Team member Kaya Turski defend her home slopes.