Why The Sochi Olympic Snowboard Slopestyle Course Is Scary

So I’ve been watching all the debate going on about Shaun White dropping out of the slopestyle at Sochi and I notice there’s a lot of confusion about why some athletes are saying the slopestyle course is dangerous and why some are saying it’s fine.

People are throwing out random tweets from athletes saying the course is fine, then someone else is coming back with another tweet saying it’s dangerous etc. etc.

So I thought I’d break things down a little and explain why the course construction was criticised.

1) The drop-in section onto the rails is designed poorly

So what’s wrong with the ramp? Well it isn’t that it’s steep, but rather that you have barely any time to balance and setup your trick before being kicked over the rail section:

Sochi Olympics 2014 - Snowboard Slopestyle Dangerous

The ramp goes drop in > kicky curve > rails, but typically you’d want it to be drop in > flat/straight setup area > rails.

Unfortunately, the entire lead up section into the rails for the Sochi slopestyle course is basically one big curve which can really put riders off when they’re trying to square up their body to set up a rotation (such as the pretty standard 270 on/off which is a staple for most slopestyle contests).

Setting up for spin while trying to fight a kicky ramp is hard and as a park rider it scares the crap out of me just looking at that kicky setup onto the rails.

All they needed was a few feet of flat space in between that ramp and the rails and it would make it 100 times less scary, which boggles my mind as far as why that’s not the case.

I’ve also heard the rails were a little sticky, but honestly I can’t comment on that since that’s something you have to ride yourself to see how it feels.

2) The jump take-offs were ‘overbuilt’ (at least at first)

From what I can tell, when the athletes first got to the course the jumps were extremely overbuilt, so that the jump take-offs were too steep relative to the landing of the jump.

So you may ask, why does this matter? Well it matters because when the angles don’t match up it makes it hard to land in the sweet spot of the landing without taking too much impact.

Have a look at this diagram here:

Sochi Olympics 2014 - Snowboard Slopestyle Dangerous 2

Notice how in the first photo the jump take off is flat and the landing is steep? That means it’s very hard to hit the jump and land in the sweet spot of the landing because your flight path doesn’t match up with the landing properly.

Now in the case of the Sochi jumps, it was actually the opposite problem to this diagram. The jumps were built way steeper than the landings, so you had a really big upward arch, but a mellow landing, which means a lot of impact on your body when you land.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that you don’t want to take lots of impact on your body when you fall down from 2 stories up in the air.

This is part of why they had that rider meeting and had the jumps cut down to be more in line with the landings. From what I’ve heard it’s not perfect now, but it’s way better than it was on Day 1.

So is the course still dangerous after the fixes?

I have no idea if they fixed the drop-in to the rails or if riders found a way to bypass the kicky drop-in ramp by dropping in lower or something else, but I’m sure the jumps are safer even though they may not be as perfect as hoped.

Is it the most dangerous course ever? No.

Is it the perfectly shaped and safe course that’s typically expected from a contest this big? No.

It is what it is, not perfect, but not the worst. It’s definitely not quite up to the standard of a major event like this, but it’s still seems ridable after the fixes.

Anyhow, the real topic here is of course what everyone wants to talk about…

Do you agree or disagree with Shaun White’s decision?

Personally, I may be in the minority, but I don’t mind that he dropped out. The part that sucks is he should have done it sooner so they could get a replacement athlete, but I don’t care about the actual part of him dropping out and choosing not to compete.

To me it seems he had 3 choices:

  1. Stay in and compete while dialling back to a safer run
  2. Drop out to save himself for halfpipe where he’s typically head and shoulders better than everyone else
  3. Stay in and compete while going for his best run

If he does the first option, we both know he’ll still get hated on anyway because “he’s not trying his best when someone else missed out for him to compete” or “he’s scared to compete since he knows he’ll lose.”

We already saw that happen in the X-Games awhile back. So his option is to either go full out in slopestyle or not compete at all.

Now if he goes for his best run, what happens?

  1. He stomps it and maybe wins, but with the stacked slopestyle field it’s anyones game even if you stomp your best run
  2. He bails and doesn’t get injured
  3. He bails and gets injured and is unable to compete in superpipe where he typically dominates without even pulling out his best run

To me it looks like he did the risk vs. reward in his head and with how inconsistent his runs have been in slopestyle recently, plus being put off by the rough course and also getting a wrist injury in practice, it looks like he decided the total increased risk of injury wasn’t worth sacrificing what is likely to be a gold medal in superpipe.

Is it a little wimpy to not compete to his best ability? Probably, but I try not judge another snowboarder when it comes to their own risk vs. reward level, especially not on obstacles that big in less than ideal conditions.

Your own safety is your own call, especially when the conditions aren’t ideal, it just kind of sucks that some guy missed out on a spot on the team due to all of this.

But here’s the thing:

We all know why snowboarding is in the Olympics… because it makes them money and brings in views. It’s a commercial decision to cash in on competitive snowboarding, that’s why slopestyle and superpipe are in the Olympics.

Isn’t that why many snowboarders have constantly said that the Olympics needs us more than we need them? Isn’t that why there’s that whole debate about snowboard not belonging in the Olympics? The Olympics are a business of selling views by showcasing competitive sports, not here for the spirit of snowboarding.

And it stopped being about stopping ancient greek wars a long time ago. Last I checked the IOC made almost $1 billion from selling ad rights at the London Olympics.

It seems to me that Shaun White is playing the Olympics exactly the way it’s designed. He’s treating it as a commercial gold medal winning endeavor and maximising his value out of the Olympics.

I’m not saying this is a good thing, but rather I am saying that it matches up with what I’d expect from the modern money making entity that is the Olympics.

Anyhow I’ll discuss this more in the new Snomie podcast coming up this week. We’re recording the first episode this Friday, so it should be a fun topic to talk about :)

- Jed

ps – If you have an idea for the name of the Snomie snowboard podcast, let me know. Right now I’m leaning towards naming it “Snowboarding & Beer” since that’s literally what it is… we sit around and have drinks while talking snowboarding.

When Is The Best Time To Book Flight Tickets For A Snowboard Trip?

Hey Snomie and Snowboard Shred School readers, I’ve got a small break between answering emails and creating the upcoming Snomie.com free snowboard shred school site, so I thought I’d tackle a quick non-snowboard (but still useful) travel question.

When is the best time to book flight tickets for a snowboard trip?

Flying costs can be a pain in the butt for a lot of snowboarders, especially if you don’t happen to live close to a major resort.

I should know, my airfare from Australia to Canada costs $1.5k to 2k every year and I’ve been doing for the past 7 years. I also have a girlfriend in Korea, family in Singapore and the Snomie.com business (accountants, office etc) is based in Australia.

This means I travel an absurd amount and in total my flight tracking app says I’ve flown over 145,000 kms over the past few years, so when I say I’ve spent a lot of time in a plane, I’m not kidding.

That means I’ve thankfully had some experience figuring out how to get cheap airfares for all my snowboard and non-snowboard related travels.

So the answer to this question depends on when you’re going snowboarding, but here’s a breakdown from my experience and from a little research into flight prices (some thanks to Peter Greenberg’s article on flight hacking).

I’m flying during a major holiday (eg – Christmas, New Year’s)

If you’re flying during a major holiday, you’re going to have to book a couple months advance. It’s not the cheapest and you won’t be getting any discounts, but you don’t really have much choice since waiting for a last minute discount can easily mean the entire flight sells out and you miss out.

The latest I’d leave it is about 2 months in advance, which may be your best chance to get a small discount (very rare), but inside of 2 months for a major holiday like Christmas is risky and you may be left without any flights left if you leave it too late.

I’m not flying during a major holiday

If you’re not flying during a major holiday, you’ve got more options and waiting longer is actually better. Here are the basic tips:

1) The ‘sweet spot’ starts 45 to 30 days before your trip

About 1 and a half months (45 days) before the flight date is when most flights will begin to go on discount and from that time onwards it tends to get cheaper.

Airlines will often discount flights more as you get closer to the travel date to make sure they fill out as many seats, but just be careful about leaving it much later than a month (30 days) before the snowboard trip date (eg – a day before is not recommended).

I’ve had some great deals on flights when I booked a 1-3 days before my snowboard trip, but I only do that on trips where I don’t have to worry about the exact arrival date (eg – staying at a friend’s house), so I’m not worried about arriving a day or two late if the flight I want ends up fully booked.

2) Be flexible within a few days of your set date (book accommodation after the flight)

If you can, being able to shift your holiday a day or two forward/backward can be very useful for your trip. You’ll sometimes find the same flight can be up to a couple hundred dollars cheaper if you fly the day before or the day after.

Mid-week flights tend to be cheaper than weekend flights due to the lower amount of demand for mid-week travel.

3) Book on Tuesday to Wednesday

*note – this tip is more aimed at domestic flights since there are more flights and more competition/discounts for domestic travel

Low airfare deals tend to go on sale on between Sunday to Tuesday, with the largest amount of deals hitting the airfare systems on Tuesday afternoon (at about 3 pm EST, for whatever reason this is the time airlines program their deals to go online – source), so that’s when you want to start looking at flights.

If you want to take this a step further, you can call up directly at Wednesday 1 am (1 am where the airline company is based – you’ll have to do your research) to get the best price.

This works becuase you typically get 1 day to pay and secure your reservation when you call and book a flight, so most of the cheap flights reserved on Sunday and Monday that weren’t secured will flood back into the system on Tuesday at midnight, so that’s why Wednesday at 1 am is a good time to call and book.

Do note that for this to work you do have to call and talk to the booking agent at the airline, not online, but it can be worth it if you save some money on your flight.

Bonus tip

Honestly if you want the cheapest way to get flights for your snowboard trip, the best way I’ve found is still by a credit card that offers points/flight miles and being smart with earning and using your points.

Now obviously this is only for responsible people who ALWAYS pay off their credit card balance in full every month and never pay interest, but if you are one of these people it can be worth free flights for your yearly snow trip.

With normal spending on a card (groceries, petrol, day to day expenses) it’s pretty normal to rack up enough points for a free return flight once a year and there are usually point bonuses when you sign up for a credit card which can get you close to a free return flight right away.

These point bonuses plus putting all your day to day food and expenses on a credit card with good points are how I travelled business class through Asia on the Hello Kitty plane (video below – it was not planned, but I did find the Hello Kitty theme amusing) and all I paid was about $200 in fuel tax.

Anyhow, hope that helps you guys save a few bucks on your yearly ski trip flights.

- Jed

Happy Birthday To Me (plus a small request)

If I’ve ever helped you with your snowboarding, leave a testimonial here:

Click here to leave a testimonial

Now go make 2014 the year you experience life and finally make some steps towards the life you want instead of just sitting on the sidelines dreaming about it like every other year.

- Jed

ps – I know… I still look 16, even though I’m 26 now, but I suppose that’s a good thing right?

The Better Way To Learn Snowboarding

The Snomie website as you know it will be changing. Don’t panic, you’ll still be able to come to Snomie.com and get snowboard tips, videos and blogs, but I’m changing the entire site around.

A couple months ago I said I wanted to change from our daily snowboard tip blogs to doing longer, more detailed snowboard guides and lessons. Well there was one big issue I had to solve before I could do that and I couldn’t figure out a solution… until now.

The problem:

It’s easy to find the latest snowboard guides/blogs that I add because they’re on the front page of Snomie, but older guides get lost and buried when I add a new guide or blog post. Eventually there’s just so many snowboard tips/lessons on the blog that finding what you want becomes a pain in the butt.

For example, if I do a huge, detailed guide on improving your spin technique on 360s, it’ll eventually end up buried under 50 other guides and when you want to go find that guide you have to search your way through all those guides to find the one you want.

Introducing ‘Snowboard Shred School’:

Snowboard Shred School

To make our upcoming guides and lessons easy to access and use, I’m creating a whole new section on Snomie called the ‘Snowboard Shred School’.

You know how universities and schools have their own student sites where you can login and access your lectures, lessons, tutorials and it’s organized nicely into each class for you? This will be the same, except it’ll be 100% free to join our online Snowboard Shred School and the lessons/tutorials will be all about snowboarding.

For example, if you wanted some carving tutorials to improve your turning, you’d just login to our free Snowboard Shred School, go to our section on riding technique and click the guide on carving. That way every time I add a new guide/tutorial, it’ll be nicely organized and you guys will be able to find it easily when you need it.

Basically the new Snomie.com will have 3 parts:

  1. Our blog (where I add behind the scenes vlogs and non-lesson snowboard content)
  2. Snowboard Shred School (where you can join for free and get free video lessons and snowboard guides)
  3. Snowboard Shred School Pro (our current paid Snowboard Trick Secrets training where I teach more in-depth freestyle and give extra coaching and lessons)

How to make sure you don’t miss out on free sign ups:

Make sure you’re on our email list (anyone who signs up for our free trick tip videos here is on our list). I’ll be sending out an email later this month to let you guys know when sign ups are open for Snowboard Shred School, and I’ll also do a blog to announce it when it goes live.

I’ll be doing a member’s only prize draw during the launch of our new free Snowboard Shred School, so you won’t want to miss out on signing up for a free account… unless you don’t like winning a free snowboard :)

Oh and for current paid VIP members of Snomie, you guys won’t have to do anything since your membership account will automatically allow you to access both the new free member’s area as well as our paid member’s area.

One more thing (and a surprise!)

By the way, the blog won’t disappear. The blog section of Snomie will still be here as a place for me to put up vlogs and regular snowboard content that isn’t a lesson or guide… oh and the blog will also be where I put our podcast episodes.

Yep, you heard me right, long time readers of Snomie will remember the Snomie podcast where I interviewed pro snowboarders and got them to share their story and advice (old episodes here). Well I’m bringing back the podcast with some changes.

I’m still working out the details for this, but get excited because the Snomie podcast will be returning :)

- Jed

ps – If you don’t want to miss out on our new free Snowboard Shred School membership, make sure you’re on our email list by signing up for our free lessons here.

Behind The Scenes – Trying Reader Suggested Sore Throat Remedies

So I said the blogs on Snomie now will either be epic, detailed snowboard guides/tips, or real life content showing a bit of the behind the scenes personality and going-ons at Snomie. This is the latter.

The Problem:

I caught a cold and sore throat from my girlfriend, but I have to record 4-5 trick tip video voiceovers for our members area this week.

The Solution:

Ask our readers for sore throat remedies and try the best idea.

The Result:

It’s really not *that* bad…

- Jed