How X-Games Snowboard Scoring Works (Why Scores Are Lower / Inflated)

Winter X Games
Winter X-Games is on again and as always there’s a lot of confusion over how runs are scored and why some riders get lower/higher scores than what you think they deserve.

There was a lot of outcry today when 14 year old Ayumu Hirano stomped an insanely smooth superpipe qualifying run and only got a 70/100, so let me break down how X-Games scoring works to shed some light for everyone.

Note: I’m not saying the current scoring system is perfect (far from it), I’m just explaining this is how it works and this is why judges give certain scores.

1) Scoring is heavily influenced by OTHER competitor’s runs

People seem to look at the score as if 100 is perfect and 0 is a complete fail. That’s not how scoring actually works.

An athlete’s run score is based on their run vs. what everyone else is doing, NOT just how technically difficult/stylish their run was. This means even if a run isn’t amazing, it can receive a very high score if everyone else in the contest was doing runs below that level.

This is why qualifying runs typically get a higher score than you’d receive if you pulled the exact same run in the finals. It’s because the average level of riding in the qualifyers is lower than during the finals.

So for example, if everyone is doing 360 spins in their qualifying run, then a competitor might get a 60-70 out of 100 if he does a bunch of 360s in his run.

However, if it’s the finals and everyone else is doing insanely big 720s and that same competitor tries to do 360s again, he’s going to get scored way lower because the level from the rest of the competitors has risen.

Eg – Shaun White gets 87 for a qualifying run that we know is well below the current ‘top’ run possible:

2) Early runs are harder to judge

Due to each score being heavily based on the overall skill level of the other competitor’s runs, some competitors get screwed/inflated scores when they do a run before the judges have seen the rest of the field.

So, if a competitor were to do an amazing qualifying run, but he’s only the 2nd person to do a run, the judges might want to give him a high score, but they also have to account for what the other competitors might be doing in their runs.

It means they’ll basically have to guess what everyone else will do in their run and judge the run based on their best guess. It’s one of the flaws of the current scoring system.

For example, this is why Ayumu Hirano did an amazing qualifying run, but only got a 70. The commentators even talked about the judges having to guess how his run did vs. what they knew was coming up from guys like Shaun White:

In this case as you can probably guess, the general consensus is they underscored Ayumu’s run. Thankfully he’s still in the finals and they did give him more points on the 2nd qualifying run.

The bottom line:

  • Each run’s score is not based just on an athlete’s run, but also scored against the overall level of competition from other riders
  • Earlier runs tend to have a more ‘guesstimated’ score than later/2nd run scores because judges have a better understanding of where each run stands in the overall level of the competition on their 2nd run

The scoring system definitely has it’s flaws and it does tend to favour ‘top’ riders due to the whole guessing element of scoring, but at least now you’ll know why certain scores are given.

It’s not random, there’s ‘kind’ of a logic behind the scoring, even if it is slightly broken.

- Jed

ps:┬áIf you want to check out all the X-Games runs and results so far, you can find replays here (click on the ‘results’ tab to see replays): Winter X-Games 2013

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