Slopestyle, one of four new events at this year's Olympics, is already a bona fide hit. It might get covered by the likes of Sports Illustrated, but it's also in Entertainment Weekly. When superstar snowboarder Shaun White dropped out of the slopestyle event at the last minute, it only drew more attention to the sport.
Slopestyle is sort of like a big skate park in the snow, a downhill course with rails and jumps. It can be performed on skis or on a snowboard.
Today brings Sochi's last slopestyle event: men's ski slopestyle. Before it's all over, we wanted to try to break down, at least a little bit, one of the most confusing aspects of slopestyle — its terminology. Olympic gold medal winner Sage Kotsenburg of Utah probably provided the best display for slopestyle's unique vocabulary. He used words in a post-win news conference from Sochi that Al-Jazeera said left Russians in "a linguistic labyrinth."
The Edge took some time with U.S. slopestyle skier Joss Christensen a day before he won gold in men's ski slopestyle on Thursday. He helped us break down the sport's slang.
The hardest part to understand can be when a slopestyle athlete talks about his or her run down the course. Here's how Christensen described his run, which he says was about a half-minute long:
"Switch right lipped 270, pretzel 270 out of the top rail. And then switch on front 450 out of the next. And then 270 on, pretzel 270 out of the down rail. And then on the third rail feature, there's like a jump to a butter pad to a cannon rail.* So I'm doing 180 up, then switch on to the cannon rail to a corked 450 out. And then I'm going left double cork 12, double Japan, to switch right, double cork 10 safety, to switch left, double cork ten tail."
Here are a few definitions, courtesy of Christensen, that should help all of that make a little more sense:
SWITCH: Skiing backward.
PRETZEL: A "reverse spin," 270 degrees.
JAPAN: A type of grab (when a skier grabs his skis while in the air). There are lots of different types of grabs.
DOUBLE JAPAN: A grab with one hand behind your foot, one hand in front on the same ski.
CORK: An "off-axis" flip. Your legs do not go over your head. A "cork 5" would be a 540-degree move; a "cork 7" is a 720-degree move.
FLIP: An "on-axis" flip. Your legs go directly over your head.
BUTTER PAD and CANNON RAIL: Christensen and I didn't specifically talk about these terms, but they are two features of a slopestyle course.
Joss also went over some other slopestyle slang:
CATCHING EDGE: Landing sideways. Not good, can be painful.
APEXING: Reaching the highest point of your jump.
STOMPING: Landing your whole run "clean." Making it through without mistakes.
SHREDDING THE GNAR: Skiing gnarly (difficult) terrain. Usually not a groomed run, maybe backcountry or moguls. Harder than usual.
WHITE ROOM: Skiing fresh powder and making turns in a way to push so much snow over your face that you're white all over, and all you see is white.
Christensen told me some of the slang tied to slopestyle happens pretty spontaneously. There's actually a trick called a K-Fed. Yes, THAT K-Fed — it's named after Britney Spears' ex-husband. Christensen told me some kids in Salt Lake City made up the term and it just stuck. You'll be happy to know that there's also a trick called the B-Spears, for Britney Spears, and a Super-Fed — a K-Fed but even harder.
Whether we can understand the snowboarders or not, they're doing just fine. Kotsenburg's team is already fielding calls for endorsement deals. We may all be speaking a little more slopestyle-ese pretty soon.