Adding slopestyle to Sochi venue plans

A first look at the FIS plans for the 2014 Olympic snowboard and freestyle skiing venue at the Sochi resort of Rosa Khutor. FIS

When Joe Fitzgerald visited Sochi, Russia, in November 2010, a new trail was being cut to the skier's left of the snowboard and freestyle skiing venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics. On April 26, he will return to the mountain and determine whether that trail will be ready to host a ski and snowboard slopestyle course. That is, if the discipline receives the seal of approval from the International Olympic Committee next month.

Fitzgerald is the Freestyle Skiing Coordinator for the International Ski Federation, and he believes that slopestyle will be added to the Olympic program. The reason he thinks the IOC decision was delayed on slopestyle, but not on ski halfpipe, is related to logistics. "In [ski] halfpipe, the course exists," Fitzgerald explained. "So this is an easy thing to understand the cost implications -- just add some more beds and make sure the schedule works."

Fitzgerald and Uwe Beier, the Snowboard Race Director for FIS who is also optimistic about slopestyle's chances of being added to the Olympics, have been working with FIS and Sochi organizers on a venue plan.

"I think we can show how all of this can be done using the existing design of the slopes," Fitzgerald said, "and getting more value out of the finish area and get TV programming aimed at a young audience."

Danzel Design created the artwork shown here, which depicts the Olympic venue at the Rosa Khutor ski area in Sochi. In the image above, the halfpipe sits to the looker's left, next to the aerial venue and the mogul course.

At this stage, these events are scheduled to take place in the afternoon and evening, with spectators in a common finish area. After conducting sun studies on the venue, FIS placed the halfpipe facing due north, designed to preserve snowpack and improve conditions.

To looker's right in the top image, the gates of the PGS snowboard course can be seen, then the Y-shaped ski and snowboard cross course. The empty trail to the far right bears the suggestion of features which would become jumps in a slopestyle course.

Fitzgerald said the cross and slopestyle courses would travel over the same jump just before a communal finish line, with the jump angle and shape adjusted for each event. FIS and Sochi organizers have been developing these plans for the last three years.

Beier and Fitzgerald will consider technical and spatial aspects of the new trail for a slopestyle course. The FIS team will also be assessing logistics similar to those considered by the IOC, which will send a separate panel of experts at a date to be determined before making a final decision in May. The cost of a new venue, scheduling, the impact of more athletes, the use of the finish areas, and the logistics of adding a course are all on the agenda. Fitzgerald said these unknowns could have prompted the IOC delay.

Sochi 2014 President and CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko seemed keen on slopestyle after the IOC decision in London, saying, "This is a good opportunity for the Russian team to be on the podium with more gold medals." Though it is not known who, exactly, is being referred to in this statement, speculation is that Chernyshenko is pinning his podium hopes on Iouri Podladtchikov, who was born in Moscow and went to the Turin Olympics on the Russian team. IPod, who grew up in Davos, Switzerland, has since switched to the Swiss national team.