Unpredictable, exciting and nerve-wracking; the Ski and Snowboard Cross events are high-speed races where groups of four riders navigate jumps, banked turns and rollers before tucking for the finish line.
Falls and injuries are commonplace in this high-risk, rough and tumble sport with form and talent often irrelevant - you can see dramatic changes in positions over the space of a few seconds.
Similar to a lot of the new events at the Winter Olympics, snowboard cross started at the X Games before transitioning to the FIS World Cup and finally the Winter Olympics in 2006. Ski Cross soon followed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics proving, to be one of the most watched events at the Games.
These all-action events are predicted to be just as popular in PyeongChang 2018 as athlete put it all on the line for the chance of a medal.
The Ski and Snowboard Cross competition is taking place at Phoenix Snow Park, along with the Halfpipe and Slopestyle events.
Resorts use specially adapted piste bashers to build modern-day Ski or Snowboard Cross courses, shifting huge amounts of snow to create jumps and banked turns.
A POV view of the course at the Olympic test event back in 2016. You soon grasp the height of jumps and the speed competitors achieve.
How does the event work?
Athletes compete in two heats each, in which groups of four race down the course. Each athlete receives points based on the where they placed in the race. The position a competitor finishes also determines the gate they start from in the next race, with certain gates giving riders an advantage over others.
The scores from the two heats are combined, and the top 32 -36 riders qualify for the next round. From here on in, it is sudden death with the top two athletes from each heat going through to the next round and so on, until the final.
Ski and Snowboard Cross Terminology
- Pump: An athlete pushes their body down then up at the bottom of a roller to generate more speed
- Roller: A hump or small smooth bump that riders travel over
- Double: A set of two 'rollers' that can be jumped or 'doubled'
- Berm: A banked turn that helps athletes generate speed
- Wu-Tang: Named after an American hip hop group, the course curves up steeply, forcing riders to jump and lean forwards at the same time.
- Kicker: A jump
- Table Top: A jump where the take-off is at a similar height to the landing
- Step up: A jump where the landing is higher than the take-off
- Step Down: A jump where the landing is lower than the take-off
- Transition: Any sloped areas that ‘transition’ the athlete into or out of a jump or feature
- Knuckle: The area after a jump where the flat section meets the downhill transition. If athletes don't reach the downhill section, it makes it very difficult to land the jump.
- Hang/Air Time: The amount of time an athlete is in the air
- Stomp: A solid landing
- Line: A rider's chosen path
- Blocking: Skiing a certain path to stop yourself from being passed
- Drafting: Closely following behind another skier to gain speed
- Sling Shot: Using the skier in front to ‘draft’ and then hopefully pass
- Scrub: Slowing down on purpose; generally used to stay lower to the ground over jumps
Who won in Sochi 2014?
2014 Men’s Snowboard Cross Gold Medal:
Pierre Vaultier (FRA)
2014 Men’s Ski Cross Gold Medal:
Jean-Frédéric Chapuis (FRA)
2014 Women’s Snowboard Cross Gold Medal:
Eva Samkova (CZE)
2014 Women's Ski Cross Gold Medal:
Marielle Thompson (CAN)
British hopefuls to look out for
Emily Sarsfield: Emily has been competing at World Cup Ski Cross events since 2005, clocking up multiple top ten finishes and a couple of wins along the way. Her journey is a common one with ski cross athletes having suffered serious injuries, breaking her leg and knee ligaments in 2009. She successful recovered from that before having the disappointment of Sochi in 2014. Today she is Britain’s No 1 ski cross athlete and striving to compete with the best at PeyongChang.
PyeongChang 2018 Ski and Snowboard Cross dates and times
*(PyeongChang is 9 hours ahead of the UK)
Feb 15 - Snowboard Cross
- Men's Snowboard Cross Seeding Round Phoenix Snow Park 11:00-12:35 (UK 02.00 - 03:35)
- Men's Snowboard Cross Finals Phoenix Snow Park 13:30-15:00 (UK 04.30 - 06:00)
Feb 16 - Snowboard Cross
- Women's Snowboard Cross Seeding Round Phoenix Snow Park 10:00-11:25 (UK 01.00 - 02:25)
- Women's Snowboard Cross Finals Phoenix Snow Park 12:15-13:15 (UK 03.15 - 04:15)
Feb 21 - Ski Cross
- Men's Ski Cross Seeding Round Phoenix Snow Park 11:30-12:15 (UK 02.30 - 03:15)
- Men’s Ski Cross Finals Phoenix Snow Park 13:15-14:55 (UK 04.15 - 05:55)
Feb 23 - Ski Cross
- Women's Ski Cross Seeding Round Phoenix Snow Park 11:30-12:15 (UK 02.30 - 03:15)
- Women's Ski Cross Finals Phoenix Snow Park 13:15-14:55 (UK 04.15 - 05:55)
Find out more about our PyeongChang hopefuls and #WhatItTakes to become an Olympian.
About the Author:
Pete Fletcher - Outdoor Expert
Pete grew up hiking most of the trails in the Lake District before being introduced to skiing. A decade later and you're most likely to find him snowboarding, skateboarding or making a mean coffee.