Nyborian parent, are you new to freestyle skiing? Want to learn more about what to expect? Check out this guide written by a veteran Nybora parent:
Parents Field Guide to Freestyle Skiing and Nybora
Written by Al Dutcher, 5 year Nybora year parent
Why a Parents Guide?
I decided to document a few thoughts and observations as Freestyle skiing has a life of its own and can be confusing to the parents! My son was on Nybora for 5 years and it seems like there were some common questions that continually came up for parents. My son started with Nybora, skied in the regional meets, qualified for Junior Nationals several times, and even skied in international competition while on Nybora. But, I am by no means an expert and this should be a living document for future Nyborian parents!
What is Freestyle Skiing?
Freestyle skiing could also be called Park and Pipe. Basically, this boils down to skiers hitting jumps, rails, boxes, and the halfpipe. There are 5 events in which a skier can compete or participate in:
- Slopestyle – this event combines jumps, rails, and boxes where skiers ‘hit’ a series of features in sequence down the hill
- Big Air – Skiers hit a single jump and perform 1 trick that is judged. Skiers have two attempts and the best score is used for the final score.
- Aerials – an official US Ski Team event where skiers have two attempts and the scores are combined.
- Halfpipe – this event is in the halfpipe and tricks are preformed on either side as the skier comes down the pipe
- Moguls – each skier has 2 runs, best run counts as final score. Typically the mogul run also include up to two jumps. Beginning mogul skiers sometimes bypass the jumps.
Why do kids choose freestyle skiing?
Kids choose this sport because it is FUN and it gives them a chance to express their individuality. You will see kids do the same trick (a 720, for exmaple) but change their body position and hold their skis differently giving the trick a completely different look.
The other main attraction to the sport is that the skier is competing against his or herself and others at the same time. The skiers understand that they may do their best and be outdone by another skier who was able to do a more advanced trick or perform the tricks with greater ability, amplitude, and/or style. But at the same time, the skier can compare their scores from the previous event and compete against himself or herself. You’ll be surprised how supportive the skiers are of each other when someone is able to nail an advanced trick…..they accept the fact that the other person was able to do the trick and then work towards that.
Nybora has created a fun, safe, and ‘learning’ atmosphere and team. The skiers on Nybora help each other with tips, the coaches know how to get skiers to perform the tricks, and the directors use their experience to make sure that skiers are skiing at the level they are capable of. But most of all, THIS IS ABOUT HAVING FUN! The team members like hanging out with other kids who have a similar interest and talking about freestyle!!!
Nybora/Midwest Freestyle Association (www.nybora.com)
- Sanctioned by the US Ski and Snowboard Association
- Earn points toward the Junior Nationals and possible Nationals (more on this later)
- Must be a USSA Member
- Website http://ussa.org/
- Judging is based on guidelines issued from USSA
- No points toward USSA goals
- Generally awards by age group and gender
There are many events sponsored by ski Areas, ski companies, ski shops, etc. These competitions can and will have their own format along with prizes and awards. The purpose of these competitions is generally marketing and promotion-based to get kids to the ski area or try a product. The judging will vary widely based on the format and might not seem ‘fair’ at times, but your skier really needs to understand the format and what the judging will be based on.
Places to find out about these events:
Making Junior Nationals
As I mentioned earlier, USSA events provide a path to the Junior Nationals and possible berth in National/International events. A spot to JN’s is determined by two things….points gained during the season and skiers must ski in the Central Division Divisionals held toward the end of the season.
- USSA Points
- This can be confusing but each skier earns points at USSA events
- Slopestyle and Halfpipe point possibilities are set by highest point total skier entered into that event. The point list can be found on the USSA site.
- There is a results sheet generated after each event with each skiers points
- Aerials points are determined by the actual score at each event
- A predetermined number of spots are allocated nationally for each discipline. Consult the ussa freestyle rule book, it can be found on the ussa website
- The points list is regardless of age. JNs include 18 and under skiers
- Points can be tracked at www.ussa.org
- As the year proceeds, several updates are published and you can see your skiers ranking
- Ask other veteran parents and Martin/Lewis if you have questions!!
Freestyle is a subjective, judged sport! There are no exact times to measure, etc, so judging will vary from event to event and from judge to judge. There are definite guidelines for USSA events but they still require the interpretation of the individual judge. If your skier has questions, the best advice is for the skier to ask coaches what they can do differently to improve their score.
Some elements that the judges are looking for:
- Variation of tricks
- spins (360, 720, 900, 1080, 1260, etc)
- Amplitude (height)
- Grabs (i.e. where the skier grabbed the ski and how long they held it)
- Body position (up and down, off axis or cork, etc)
- Body control
- Over all style (was the skier in control)
- Skiing switch (backwards)
- Landing (clean, no touchdowns)
- Clean runs get rewarded
What to expect at an Event
What to wear
- Dress Warm!!! Make sure you skin is covered (ski goggles are ok!) and that you have good boots. It helps to use hand and feet warmers too.
- Blankets also work well
- Attach the hood to your coat…..amazing how warm that can make you
- Generally all events have a registration time
- The actual start time will vary based on the number of competitors, number of age groups, snow and wind conditions, etc
- There is a thing called “Freestyle Time” J This means that the event might start in 1 minute or in 59 minutes!! The volunteers are working very hard to get the meet up and running, but weather, computer issues, field size, venue challenges, etc. can all cause delays. There are so many factors at play that you need to be patient!
- The best signal is a pre-comp meeting for the skiers. Once this happens, there is good chance the comp will start shortly
- There is no specified event length. A competition length will be determined by how many skiers will ski, the cadence of judges, the number of runs, the weather conditions, etc. That said, Nybora and Midwest Freestyle Association run some of the most efficient and effective competitions in the freestyle world.
- USSA events have a random run order generated, which will create a predetermined run order. We usually get a copy to share among the parents and your skier will know the general timing.
- Pace of the runs depends on the event…you’ll get a feel for timing after a few skiers go
- Jam Events – During a ‘Jam’ the skiers will go as often as they can with no particular order. The judging during a Jam is generally set to pick out the top skiers who would move on to more of a formal and Finals type format.
- Scores are calculated at the end of the events by the officials and volunteers
- At the end of what can be a long day, everyone is excited to get their scores and head home. It can sometimes seem like a long time for scores to be calculated
- BE PATIENT with the scorers! They are volunteers and are always working as fast as they can to get things done. Scoring an event is complicated and can take some time
- At USSA events, there are awards for the top three in each age group, male and female. Age groups are at two year intervals – 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, etc.
- At the very end of the awards, every competitor gets a score sheet with their score
The best thing you can do as a parent is to support the efforts of your skier and of all the skiers. You want them to try their best, try the hardest (but safest) tricks they can do, and encourage them to ask their coaches for tips on how to improve. As with all individual sports, the amount of maturity and confidence they can learn from accepting responsibility from their success and set-backs is immeasurable!