Seppe Smits on his way to becoming World Champion… sort of. Photo: Oliver Kraus
In 2015, FIS took two of its showcase events – the Freestyle World Ski Championships and the World Snowboarding Championships, both held every two years – and combined them into one super-event. The FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships was born, and the second edition is currently underway in Sierra Nevada, Spain.
With thirteen disciplines spread across twelve days, it’s one of the biggest snowsports events in the world. It’s also a bit of a joke.
“Making the World Championships a mini-Olympics isn’t doing snowboarding (or skiing, for that matter) any favours whatsoever”
A look at the list of disciplines leaves us scratching our heads. Slopestyle and halfpipe contests are run for both skiing and snowboarding, but Big Air is only for the latter. Perhaps it’s because the skiers have the Aerials and the Moguls – as if pencil-spinning off near-vertical takeoffs, or laying out the occasional backflip between punishing stretches of everyone’s least favourite terrain, is quite enough.
Then there’s the fact that it includes ski and snowboard cross. Granted, this is often immensely watchable, but “freestyle”? Not unless you count the occasional showboating that usually ends in tears (see Lindsey Jacobellis at the 2006 Olympics). So why the need to lump it in with these other events? And that’s before you get to the fact that even snowboard slalom racing is included – another hangover of the merge.
The host resort changes every time, and bids can only come from places that are willing and able to cater for all of these disciplines. Is that why this year’s event is taking place in the Spanish resort of Sierra Nevada, where heroic shapers battle sky-high temperatures and the slopestyle course resembles a manky skidmark?
Making the World Championships a mini-Olympics isn’t doing snowboarding (or skiing, for that matter) any favours whatsoever. If FIS insist on holding a ‘Freestyle World Championships’ that’s never likely to feature the planet’s very best riders (most of this year’s slopestyle and Big Air favourites were at X Games Oslo) then there’s a better way to do it.