All images © Schneestern
It's now only 100 days until the five-ring circus fires up again, this time in South Korea. As well as the usual events (slopestyle, halfpipe, boardercross and bonkers lycraboarding), Big Air is now in the mix.
But today we're looking at slopestyle, as the course plans have just been made public. Regardless of your opinion on FIS, the IOC or the price of cheese, this is pretty interesting and well worth a look.
At first glance we appear to be looking at the standard 'three rail sections followed by three kicker sections' approach.
However, it looks like the powers that be have realised that one cast-iron way to make people really not give a damn about competitive snowboarding (aside from the multiple governing bodies, confusing tour structure and endless controversy) is to make the events themselves boring.
So they've done something about it - and frankly, it looks like it's going to fully shit on the Russian doll thing from Sochi.
Let's take a closer look at each section...
Straight out of the gates (careful this time, Anna Gasser...) it's into the rails, which has long been standard practice in slopestyle.
It makes sense really - for one thing, riders don't need too much speed, so it's an effective use of space. In the case of this event in particular, it's also an early opportunity to showcase the "inspiring" slogan that the Olympic hosts have dreamed up.
This time they've gone for "Passion: Connected." which is only marginally less terrible than Sochi's "Hot. Cool. Yours."...
As for the layout, there's plenty of scope for transfers and massive gaps on, so expect the techier rail riders to nose out in front here.
At this point we're really starting to feel sorry for the judges. This second section offers up heaps of lines, all of them wildly different.
If creativity is to be rewarded, hopefully it's here that we'll start to see the medal winning runs really coming together.
Next up, it's a fucking skate bowl made of snow.
If there's been anything like this in a slopestyle course in recent years, we've not seen it. It'll be interesting to see who thrives here.
Every rider whose idea of snowboarding is lapping the kicker line in-between gym sessions will most likely chicken out and hit the left-hand rail, whilst the more instinctive in the pack will show us something special.
Peace and harmony, and all that.
Here's a chance for the rider to find their centre, harness their chi, and hopefully do something small-yet-rad as they concentrate on building speed for what's to come.
On to the booters. We've already had a glimpse of this setup at the test event, and it's good to see it make the final edition too.
The skewed take-offs on either side will open up a few opportunities for unconventional spins. A rider who's been working on their backside-off-the-heels game, for example, may be able to use one of these to get a bit more ooomph at take-off and land something truly jaw-dropping.
You'd have to imagine that anyone taking the centre line will get an immediate thumbs down from the judges, but the option's there.
Ready for lift-off? The riders had certainly better be. The halfpipe-style ramps on either side of this cluster will allow them to fully send it to the moon. The US Open has used this kind of thing for a few years now, so you've got to assume that most of the top names will have something in mind for this.
There are plenty of other options too, to the point where it's almost asking for more than one rider at a time to be on course. Hopefully a few of those that don't qualify for the final can be convinced to do a group poach.
It all finishes with a classic big-booter little-booter combo. Again, anyone opting for the latter isn't likely to walk away with any bling, but it'll at least give those with speed issues a chance to chuck a method for the crowd.
"Regardless of your opinion on FIS, the IOC or the price of cheese, this is pretty interesting"
That's your lot. Obviously they still need to build the thing (and it'll most likely require a LOT of man-made snow), but after seeing last year's test event there's every chance the finished article will be pretty close to this.
Whatever happens, it'll be quite a show, filled with banger tricks, crazy lines, and (almost certainly) controversial scoring. February can't come soon enough.