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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
It's called freeskiing for a reason

By Cody Townsend
ESPN Action Sports

Slopestyle and halfpipe athletes will now be under FIS regulation, just like alpine ski racers.

Bode Miller and Ted Ligety aren't very happy right now. The origin of their ire is a recently updated International Ski Federation (FIS) ski-sizing rule slated for the 2012/2013 Alpine World Cup season that mandates that World Cup GS skiers must race on skis 10 centimeters longer and with a 13-meter wider sidecut radius than current equipment regulations.

Ligety, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist, said when the rule change was announced, "FIS turns back the clock on ski racing. Who wants to see GS racers not arcing?" Miller was even more frank with FIS's change, saying, "FIS could just remove themselves from the equation, that would be my top suggestion."

By now you're probably asking yourself why am I reading about a bunch of ski racing nonsense on ESPN's Freeskiing blog? But hear us out. Up until this summer, this news would have had no relevance to freeskiing. But with slopestyle and halfpipe's recent inclusion in the 2014 Olympics and under FIS's ski competition management, now a FIS decision that so vehemently upsets ski racers could show what the future of freeskiing could look like.

But rather than debating when, if or how FIS's oversight of international freeskiing competitions could affect our sport, I decided to ask what freeskiing's Olympic hopefuls have to say about the change and how they're going to handle the Olympic maturation.

With the recent inclusion of freeskiing into the Olympics and thus FIS's regulation of freeskiing, what do you make of FIS's new rule change in alpine racing?

Gus Kenworthy: I'm disappointed to hear the new change in ruling for the alpine ski equipment. I think that when you have big names such as Bode Miller saying that FIS is holding their sport back it's a pretty clear indication that these regulations are unwanted by the athletes.

Kaya Turski: I don't know too much about alpine racing, but it sounds a little crazy to me that they changed the rule for the ski lengths and widths. It makes me wonder why they would pull a move like that if it didn't benefit the athletes?

What do you think is at the heart of freeskiing and what is important to preserve going into the Olympics?

Keri Herman: The beauty of freeskiing is that everyone is free to ski any way that makes them happy. The lack of strict rules encourages creativity, innovation, and personality. I'm afraid that if FIS is allowed to regulate freeskiing, we will go from painting on a blank canvas to painting a color-by-numbers.

Russ Henshaw: Individual style. I feel like style should still be a major part of it because otherwise we will start to look like aerialists, who to be honest, all look the same in the air.

Jen Hudak: I think innovation and progression is at the heart of freeskiing. If judging is too regimented, we will end up skiing to please the judges. We should be skiing to please ourselves, to entertain our audience and to do things that have never been done before.

Simon Dumont: Not changing the format, not including mandatory straight airs and having no equipment regulation. The equipment is just catching up to the tricks we're doing, so FIS definitely wouldn't know how to regulate it.

Gus Kenworthy: When I heard the announcement to include slopestyle in the 2014 Olympics my biggest concern was that the FIS would regiment it too much. I think that the greatest part about slopestyle is how original it is. Every slopestyle course is different than the last, the tricks are constantly evolving and each event offers up a completely different outcome than another would.

Any plans to speak up or take preemptive action to set the groundwork of FIS rules and regulation for freeskiing?

Simon Dumont: That's why we created the AFP (Association of Freeskiing Professionals). We wanted to make sure to protect ourselves and our sport. The AFP will be our voice.

Kaya Turski: Some of us Canadian athletes had a meeting the other day and talked a lot about what we would like to see in 2014. It was great to hear everyone out and seemed like we were all on the same page. I would most definitely like to have my input on the rules and regulations for freeskiing.

Jen Hudak: I have been working with USSA on this stuff for a long time. As athletes, we all need to work with our own national governing bodies to have our voices heard. Then our representatives from USSA can go to FIS meetings accurately representing our opinions.