On April 6, 2011 the IOC added halfpipe skiing to the 2014 Sochi Olympics event roster. Just one month later, the USSA announced the creation of the US Freeskiing brand.
Later, on June 15, the first ever US Freeskiing national halfpipe team was unveiled. 'Twas an exciting moment for the athletes, and for the American skiing community as a whole. The first major steps had been taken towards making freeskiing's Olympic dream a reality.
Once the initial buzz faded, the question quickly became: when will they announce the national slopestyle squad? For months we've been waiting, and today we lay our curiosity to rest.
Ten athletes have been nominated to the group: Bobby Brown, Sammy Carlson, Gus Kenworthy, Alex Schlopy, Tom Wallisch, Grete Eliassen, Keri Herman, Devin Logan, Ashley Battersby and Meg Olenick. They will all now have to officially accept their nomination.
These individuals earned their spots on the team largely in part to last season's competition success. As members of the troop, they'll enjoy the benefits of a nationally sanctioned team, including: top-level coaching, support at dryland and on-snow camps, as well at major competitions, and of course access to the USSA Center of Excellence training facility in Park City, UT.
"I'm very proud to be nominated to the first ever US Freeskiing Slopestyle Pro Team," said Wallisch. "I'm definitely looking ahead to the Olympics in Sochi. Everything is happening so fast, and it's just awesome to be a part of. It's going to be an exciting couple of years leading up to 2014!"
Jeremy Forster, director of US Snowboarding and US Freeskiing notes, "It's a big step in developing our US Freeskiing program by establishing the Slopestyle Pro Team. The sport has progressed incredibly and this is a part of our commitment to supporting the riders in pursuit of their Olympic goals in 2014."
Perhaps the most surprising news of the day is the announcement of multiple-X Games medalist Evan Raps as the team's coach; Raps is currently in medical school.
Now that both the US slopestyle and halfpipe rosters have been announced, we'll follow along with the grueling competition season to see how the athletes perform. A spot on the team does not guarantee an Olympic berth; they'll have to continue to perform at the highest level, and to adhere to the strict schedule/criteria that go hand-in-hand with earning a spot on the Olympic roster.
In October, the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) met with the International Ski Federation (FIS) in Zurich, CH to discuss the state of freeskiing and the Olympics. With many people concerned that Olympic inclusion may pose a threat to the integrity of freeskiing as a whole, the meetings were much needed. The discussion was extremely positive, however, and key agreements were made ensuring the athletes' desires are met.
For more on this exciting news, see the official press release below.
Inaugural Slopestyle Skiing Pro Team Nominated
PARK CITY, UT (Nov. 4) – Following on the heels of slopestyle skiing included in the 2014 Olympic program, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has announced another progressive addition to the Team with the formation of the inaugural U.S. Freeskiing Slopestyle Pro Team.
Athletes like AFP Slopestyle Tour Champion Bobby Brown (Breckenridge, CO), World Championship gold medalist Alex Schlopy (Park City, UT), World Championship bronze medalist Keri Herman (Breckenridge, CO), X Games gold medalist Sammy Carlson (Hood River, OR) and Dew Tour winner Tom Wallisch (Salt Lake City), headline a list of 10 athletes nominated to the landmark team.
"It's a big step in developing our U.S. Freeskiing program by establishing the Slopestyle Pro Team," said U.S. Snowboarding and U.S. Freeskiing Director Jeremy Forster. "The sport has progressed incredibly and this is a part of our commitment to supporting the riders in pursuit of their Olympic goals in 2014."
Slopestyle skiing was incorporated as an Olympic sport this past July. Athletes are judged on runs in which they perform tricks on a series of jumps, rails, boxes and other features of a manmade slopestyle course.
For Wallisch, being nominated to the country's first slopestyle skiing team is an honor as well as an opportunity to see his Olympic dreams come true.
"I'm very proud to be nominated to the first ever U.S. Freeskiing Slopestyle Pro Team," said Wallisch. "I'm definitely looking ahead to the Olympics in Sochi. Everything is happening so fast, and it's just awesome to be a part of. It's going to be an exciting couple of years leading up to Sochi in 2014!"
Also nominated to the ranks of the first U.S. Freeskiing Slopestyle Team is AFP Overall Tour Champion Gus Kenworthy (Telluride, CO). Named to the women's roster are Herman, who took X Games slopestyle silver last season, World Championships team member and Dew Tour winner Ashley Battersby (Park City, UT), X Games bronze medalist Grete Eliassen (Salt Lake City), AFP Overall Tour Champion Devin Logan (West Dover, VT) and World Championship team member Meg Olenick (Aspen, CO).
Bobby Brown at the 2011 European X Games in Tignes, France | Photo: Shay Williams
Leading the charge for this first ever group is Evan Raps, newly hired U.S. Freeskiing Slopestyle Pro Team Coach. Raps is a former competitive freeskiing athlete and X Games medalist who is a key pioneer of the freeskiing movement.
The development of U.S. Freeskiing has spurred strong partner interest from major global brands including The North Face, Visa, Delta, Paul Mitchell, High Sierra and others. Freeskiing has been a hot segment of the skiing marketplace with a strong focus by resorts worldwide.
"Freeskiing has really ignited growth with kids which is being recognized by the industry and companies which want to affiliate with newschool events," said USSA's Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Andrew Judelson. "Brands like The North Face, Visa and others have been quick to recognize the excitement that's going on in parks and pipes as the sport makes its way to the Olympic stage."
The slopestyle skiing season kicks off for athletes with the 2012 Winter Dew Tour in Breckenridge, CO Dec. 15.
2012 U.S. Freeskiing Slopestyle Pro Team Nominations
- Bobby Brown (06/05/1991; Denver, CO)
- Sammy Carlson (01/11/1989; Hood River, OR)
- Gus Kenworthy (10/01/1991; Telluride, CO)
- Alex Schlopy (07/25/1992; Park City, UT)
- Tom Wallisch (07/22/1987; Salt Lake City, UT)
- Keri Herman (08/16/1982; Breckenridge, CO)
- Ashley Battersby (01/27/1988; Park City, UT)
- Grete Eliassen (09/19/1986; Salt Lake City, UT)
- Devin Logan (02/17/1993; West Dover, VT)
- Meg Olenick (12/30/1987 Aspen, CO)