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Saturday, June 9, 2012
FIS will keep 'em separated

By Devon O'Neil
ESPN Action Sports

The FIS proposal to use shared judges for snowboard and freeski events has been shot down.

Member nations nixed a proposed shared-judges system for the 2014 Winter Olympics at the International Ski Federation's (FIS) biannual Congress in South Korea last week. The system was originally intended to save money by using one or more of the same officials to judge the freeskiing and snowboarding events, but it drew widespread opposition from athletes and national governing bodies.

"From what I observed, there was near unanimous support for separate judging panels," U.S. Freeskiing and Snowboarding director Jeremy Forster wrote in an e-mail after the Congress.

FIS also released its World Cup schedules for the upcoming freeski and snowboard seasons at the Congress. On the scheduling side, it appears date conflicts between FIS World Cups and major non-FIS events -- such as the X Games and Dew Tour -- will be minimal. However, neither the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) nor snowboarding's TTR competition body had released its complete world tour schedule as of this week. (AFP general manager Steele Spence confirmed some event dates in a preliminary schedule shared Thursday afternoon, and AFP co-founder Michael Spencer also brought that schedule to Korea in an attempt to minimize conflicts.)

According to the FIS website, the freeskiing World Cup circuit includes eight venues in seven nations, with six slopestyle events and six halfpipe events, starting with a World Cup halfpipe contest in New Zealand in August. That's a large increase from last winter, when each discipline only had two World Cup events, all but one of which took place in the U.S.

The snowboarding World Cup schedule includes six stops in five countries, with six halfpipe contests and three slopestyle contests -- an increase from four pipe events and one slope event last winter.

Both sports will stage a week of World Cup events in February to test the 2014 Olympic venues in Sochi, Russia. They will also hold the biannual FIS World Championships in Voss, Norway (freeskiing), and Stoneham, Canada (snowboarding). Two U.S. Grand Prixs are included on the World Cup schedule: Copper Mountain, Colo., will host pipe and slope competitions in both freeskiing and snowboarding in early December, and Park City, Utah, will follow suit in mid-January with freeskiing pipe and slope events and a snowboarding halfpipe contest.

Thus far, despite a few tight travel windows between events, it appears the most notable date conflict lies in snowboarding, where a halfpipe World Cup is scheduled for Ruka, Finland, on the same December weekend as the Breckenridge Dew Tour.

With individual Olympic qualification not taking place until the winter of 2013-14, it's unlikely any of the sports' top competitors will attend every World Cup event this winter. Canadian ski halfpipe coach Trennon Paynter, for instance, said in an e-mail that his team's priorities are to attend the Copper event and the Sochi event, but the rest are undetermined.

U.S. Freeskiing and Snowboarding director Forster added: "I am sure some events/dates will get adjusted over the summer and we may see some additions/revisions during the fall meetings to the World Cup calendars."