This season, I jumped to the dark side of skiing. Judging contests is an interesting challenge, pressure-filled and fun all at once. I’ve visited top-tier resorts, met my idols, and learned a lot about the state of skiing. Judging is not easy. Every skier thinks they deserve to win, and we don’t give out participation trophies.
This season, I’ve traveled to Rev Tour contests in Mammoth, Aspen, and Copper Mountain; some of the best parks in the world. Being at these events as a judge is an empowering feeling. Everyone you meet gives out a high level of respect. No one wants to insult the judge in any way, and the coaches are always buying beers when the contest is over. It was different when I was competing. Weather, course build, and the pressure of a large contest is a lot to think about when you’re prepping a run. When judging, none of this really matters. As long as you can dress for the weather, all you need to do is show up and be totally honest about the skiing that day.
I’ve met former pros/idols turned coaches; actual legends of freeskiing. It is amazing to see that these guys are still so invested in the sport. They inspired me when I watched them on screen at Level 1 movie premieres or winning X Games medals. Now, these kids are lucky enough to have an impressive bank of ski knowledge passed down to them, and I can’t express how jealous I am. Imagine if you got to ski with and learn from someone like TJ Schiller or Liam Downey every day. I felt lucky just to meet them.
The people brought in to judge these events are crazy, both in terms of personality and their obsession with skiing. It can get heated in the booth. Every judge wants the best run to win, and sometimes we’ll disagree. When this happens, strong opinions and big egos will clash. It’s tricky when you just called someone an “absolute psychopath” for the way they scored a run before realizing they’re your roommate for the week and you’ll have to walk back to the hotel room together.
Judging contests is hard. When half of the field has doubles or even triples spinning both ways, there is not going to be much to separate the skiers. Every detail of the run is examined, from landings to amplitude to length of grabs. Even with five sets of eyes on the run, details can be missed. It sucks, but damn it if we aren’t doing our best. With precious FIS points are on the line, there is pressure on the skiers to perform, and pressure on the judges to score runs properly. At the end of the day, we hold our heads high knowing that we picked the right ranking. If you don’t like it, come talk to us.
More often than not, coaches do come talk to the judges after an event. When a coach comes to dispute a score, it can be hard to convince them why they are wrong. We take diligent notes on each run and are prepared to discuss and defend our scores, but coaches and skiers want to defend themselves. They have all worked so hard to get to this high level of skiing, and when we have to tell them that the run sucked, it kills me inside. Sorry though, your run really did suck.
Anyways, I’m headed to Copper Mountain next week for USASA Nationals. If you’re there, come say hello. If you have any other questions about judging, leave a comment. If you were at the Rev Tour this year and don't like how I judged you, rip me apart idgaf