This winter has been an interesting one for the ski world. The Olympics created an insane amount of hype for a sport that's generally hidden from the mainstream crowds. Maybe more than ever before, FIS is facing a huge amount of criticism for their World Cup competitions - from course layouts, to running in sketchy conditions, to questionable calls from the judges. Instead of complaining about the ridiculous state of FIS competitions, Matt Walker and Joss Christensen set out to be the change they want to see. SLVSH Cup is the juxtaposition to typical World Cup competitions that freestyle skiing desperately needs.
The trick calls are based on creativity and style, rather than the notion that in order to win, the run needs to be squeaky clean. A small bobble or shuffle doesn't always mean a skier lost the upper hand or gained a letter, especially on a difficult trick. While on defense in the finale, Henrick said "This one is going to be a little harder for me," to which he got the reply "That's the name of the game man, learning shit!" Seriously though, where else would you find a competition where the skiers have to land tricks with their hands in their pockets or stomp an 11 out off a four-foot rail? (Nowhere).
If a feature of the course is suspiciously sketchy because of speed or build issues the skiers don't need to use it. Only want to hit the left wall in a halfpipe? No problem. Don't have the speed to clear two jumps? Just hit one. Did one of the skiers tweak out their knee? No worries, halt the game until tomorrow because the skier's longevity actually matters here. In the recent semi-final games of Henrik/Hess and Quinn/Ahall none of the big jumps were utilized because of the conditions. "It rained/snowed and got super hot right before we started skiing that day. The snow was super sticky and unpredictable. Any part of the jump or other bigger features were pretty much out of the picture until the sun started to go down." In a FIS competition they'd still be expected to send their runs no matter the conditions.
But the best part about the SLVSH format is that the skiers ref themselves. The Olympic panel controversially included judges that have not competed in slopestyle - which many believe should be a mandatory qualification to actually judge slopestyle. Luckily in SLVSH Cup the reffing duties are switched between the competitors, who can actually throw down the tricks being called. They understand the difficulty of each grab, tweak and rail line and can explain and replay close calls to the ever-critiquing audience. In the recent Cup final, Woodsy constantly double-checks the trick calls and gives multiple reasons for why a letter is given in potentially controversial scenarios.
The game still isn't perfect. Sometimes the reffing isn't consistent, sometimes the riders call the same trick and sometimes comradery is mistaken for shitty attitudes by third parties. But honestly fuck that, SLVSH isn't the World Cup and will never be. Instead of psychoanalyzing the actions of each competitor and ref, we should be stoked this sort of competition exists for skiers to watch and compete in. Today's SLVSH Cup final was the most I've ever been stoked at a contest... ever? It's a much-needed breath of fresh air from the World Cup madness. So thanks SLVSH, for being the competition we need but don’t deserve.
Cover Photo by Rachel Bock