Hear me out.
We've seemingly reached the maximum number of rotations skiers can twist around in the air. Eight years ago Sammy Carlson landed the first triple, which has since become the standard in slopestyle. Two years ago Jackson Wells landed the first quad cork, followed only by Andri Ragettli. That’s just two skiers who are known to have landed a quad. Two. That speaks volumes about the difficulty and risk of the trick. The likeliness of seeing one in a competition is next to none without a purpose built jump and the probability of pushing towards a quintuple cork is unlikely.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if some grom is practicing just that off a water-ramp or trampoline. Troy Podmilsak already landed his first triple at just twelve years old - which somehow, yet unsurprisingly, came with a huge backlash. Comments ranged from awe to just the opposite, ‘He must first learn to do the basics WELL before moving onto bigger tricks.’ Podmilsak’s ability to huck his body on skis is inarguably impressive and if any upcoming skier were to land a quad or more, it would most likely be him - but with it comes a certain level of danger. Another response to his triple was, “I've seen this kid ski and he just throws himself. I've watched him almost slam his head setting doubles at water ramps and on snow.” Would the potential body damage be worth it?
It’s no secret that bruises, tears and broken bones are part of the sport. The question is never if we’ll sustain an injury, but when. Our current generation of freeskiers have a list of injuries and setbacks that would make our mothers cry... However the next generation of young rippers already have knee their problems, shoulder problems, concussions and more before they hit their 20s. Another young ripper, Cody Laplante, is no stranger to injuries at just fifteen years old. The need to progress the sport towards a spin-to-win attitude is causing an insane amount of injuries for the upcoming and current generation. Is longevity of freestyle skiers becoming shorter?
Both Gus Kenworthy and Devin Logan had massive hematomas while competing at the Olympics. Colby Stevenson and ABM both had heavy crashes at Dew Tour that resulted in a season-ended for one and a concussion for the other. At X Games Giulia Tanno broke her arm (again) while many other skiers, such as McRae Williams, pulled from their events in hopes of saving their body just enough to last through the Olympics. Could smaller jumps help reduce how common injuries are becomming?
Spin-to-win has always been seen in a rather negative light and the consensus in freeskiing, outside of contests, is generally style>spins. Smaller jumps would require skiers to be more creative to win. We’ve seen the small-jump-effect in big air city competitions where triples resulted in crashes but stylish dubs, or less, resulted in wins. In order to podium, skiers need to pull out something new from their bag of tricks - whether it be a new grab, funky tweak or weird axes. This could mean anything from a gravity-defying trick that shouldn’t be possible - such as Vincent Gagnier’s wild zero spin or Elias Syrja’s creative pre-safety dub - which earned them both the wins.
The PyeongChang jumps were significantly smaller than the Sochi jumps, but we still saw triples stomped in men’s slopestyle. Woodsy was the only skier to land a run with two triples and finished, yet again, in fourth. Nick Goepper won silver with a singular triple. However, Oystein controversially took home gold with three doubles, in part because of the difficulty of the blunt to blunt grab. It is possible for a double to be more difficult than a triple depending on the execution of the grab or tweak. It is also possible for a trick on a smaller jump to be more difficult than a trick on a large jump.
Of course, those competing at World Cup Events, X Games and the Olympics are the best of the best. Smaller jumps would undoubtedly restrict the rotations, which could take away from the high-level of competition. The athletes at these events are able to land both stylish doubles and triples, so the idea may limit the skiers in the rotational sense but might force them to take a new look at things. And if all else fails, maybe the judges will have an easier time calling tricks.
So what's next for slopestyle - smaller jumps? Bigger jumps? More style? More spins?
We could have any of it... it’s an age-old question that has been around for as long as the sport itself. Perhaps I’m beating a dead horse at this point, but instead of demeaning the progress of the sport maybe it’s time to point our skis in the direction we want progression to go.