Open letter to freeskiing: judging
There have been a lot of questions and comments regarding the judging in aspen, especially after the results of big air and knuckle huck.
I’ll start by at least giving you my credentials so you don’t think I’m completely full of shit. I’ve judged XGAMES 8 times, 6 in Aspen, and 2 Euro X, as well as dozens of FIS events. I stopped judging in 2018 and started announcing dew tour as well as live venue announcing at x games.
Thought I’d maybe share some perspective that a lot of people don’t necessarily know or think about from the judges booth.
A lot of the questions have come after the results of big air, and why people ending up being ranked where they were. We’ll start with the scoring system. This year there were 3 scoring judges, normally 5 and a head judge. The judges score on a scale from 0-15, all 3 judges scores are added up, plus 5 points to get a score out of 50. The scores are only used as a tool to find a ranking, so they don’t necessarily matter, as long as the ranking is correct. That being said, when you have a contest with more that 15 tricks, but only 15 points to give, they’re already working with a flawed system. The judges use criteria to find the ranking, execution, variety, combinations, amplitude and progression, which then is used to get an “overall impression” of what is done. They use that criteria to decide which trick is ranked where. Now consider that scoring system, and that criteria, and you have to do all of that it at the most, 10 seconds during big air, while remembering what other tricks have already been done and comparing them. Buy air is also a 2 jump format at x, where each skier has their 2 best, different tricks scored. ABM for example did one of the best single tricks of the contest with the switch triple 14, lead octo to trailing octo, which received one of the highest scores given out. But his other trick, dub bio 10 breeby, wasn’t enough to compare to ahall’s two tricks (switch dub 18 Buick and dub 16 nose) right above him.
Now if you take that into consideration with the other events, whether we’re taking about pipe or slope, you use the same system to figure out who should be ranked where. The reason this system is used instead of one like figure skating, or aerials, where there is a value based on a trick, is to keep the freeskiing element alive. We all know that the way Torin does a dub 12 mute in the pipe is different than the way a basic dub 12 mute is done, but if you have a value based system, they would be on the same scale.
I don’t want to get in the mud about who I think should have been ranked where, and what skier’s style should be considered better than another’s, mainly because as a judge, you have to remove all of your ski bias to be a fair and subjective as possible. That can be the hardest part of deciding who should come out on top. With that being said your favorite skier may not end up winning, even if you think they did the dopest shit ever.
I’m not here to make excuses for the judges, or even validate their decisions, just to give a little insight on what it’s actually like. And that being said, freeskiing need different opinions, different styles, different tricks, and everyone can relate to whatever they want to. I can tell you though that the guys and girls that are in those judging booths are some of the most passionate, and obsessed with skiing people around.
The system was created to have a “panel of your peers”, and the judges have and will continue to have an open line of communication with the athletes. The goal is to get the results that the general consensus of the athletes with agree with, and they’re 100% encouraged to share their opinion with the judges and have discussions with that on what they want to see happen in these events.
Im not saying it’s a perfect system by any means, and it is beyond difficult to think that 3-5 peoples opinions decide who wins these contests. And as a few people suggested, fan voting doesn’t work, just ask PK about that.
If you want to have a voice in skiing, or you think you could help the sport go in the “right” direction or do a better job, get up from behind you keyboard or your Instagram comments and sign up for a judging clinic. Skiing needs as many voices as possible to keep it free.