Why Freestyle Skiing Goes Unnoticed
Why Freestyle Skiing Goes Unnoticed
Freestyle skiing, though an official Olympic sport since 1988, has failed to garner the attention required for significant growth over the years.
Freestyle skiing, though an official Olympic sport since 1988, has failed to garner the attention required for significant growth over the years. Although the introduction of slopestyle and halfpipe skiing to the Olympics in 2014 has helped to increase its popularity, the sport is still far from being as popular as alpine skiing. While there may be several other reasons for freestyle skiing’s lack of growth in participation, the three most obvious ones are the dangers of the sport, the gear it requires, and the scarcity of freestyle terrain parks globally.
Freestyle skiing is one of the most dangerous winter sports, if you couldn’t already tell from the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Nearly half of all aerial skiers reported an injury, and three of the top five sports with the most injuries were categories of freestyle skiing at the event. While performances of a Double cork 1080s or Rodeo 540s can be jaw-dropping and exciting to watch, the skiers undertaking these tricks usually experience numerous falls and bruises to master these tricks. Debilitating injuries and even deaths have occurred within the sport, so beginners must strictly follow necessary guidelines before attempting any tricks. As with most sports, learning the basics in freestyle skiing can bore and discourage skiers from continuing, but the burden of injury can also play a major role in trying out the sport.
The difficulty of purchasing or renting freestyle skis also affects the popularity of the sport. To safely take on ski jumps, also known as “kickers,” skiers need proper gear such as twin-tip skis, shorter ski poles, and ski helmets. While the sport does not require many items, the total cost may equate to hundreds of dollars. Unlike alpine skis, freestyle twin-tip skis are also not readily available to rent in many ski shops. Therefore, skiers must have enough disposable income to preorder all of the required equipment in order to even attempt the sport, making it so that freeskiing suffers from a lack of “try before you buy” opportunities for those interested. This extra level of effort and expenditure necessary makes freestyle skiing an aloof world.
Unlike alpine skiing, freestyle skiing requires specialized landscape, which most ski resorts do not provide. Much like the gear, freestyle terrain parks and half pipes are only available in select ski resorts, especially outside the U.S. While more ski resorts worldwide are trying to build more parks and halfpipes, the process requires extensive time, effort, and money. In countries where skiing does not have massive popularity or people do not have access to the sport, freestyle skiing is impossible to do. Thus, to freestyle ski, many people need to drive long hours or even take a plane ride to their nearest ski resort. If more resorts provide proper parks or halfpipes, the sport could become more popular, but public interest in freestyle skiing must increase first to make the investment worthwhile.
While teaching beginners safe ways to freeski, making the gear more accessible, and building more parks and half pipes would all help increase freestyle skiing’s popularity, these methods are highly impractical as it would require significant money and effort. Therefore, the best option may be to use social media to promote the sport. The Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) hosts a number of freestyle skiing competitions every year such as the Freeski World Cups, and other events like the X Games are popular among fans as well, but highlights from these contests rarely headline news and social media platforms. FIS or national ski teams encouraging Instagram accounts like House of Highlights or ESPN to post freestyle skiing clips more often could increase the sport’s viewership and ultimately its popularity. The sport has room to grow, and if it ever wants to capitalize on its Olympic and X Games viewership, freeskiing needs to find ways to increase accessibility.