After being a new trend in skiing, freestyle skiing has now become institutionalized and offers established disciplines at which the French excel. Let us explain…
This is the historical discipline of freestyle skiing, and the French have always excelled at this sport. Edgar Grospiron's historic Olympic gold medal in Albertville in 1992 is remembered for this discipline’s first-time inclusion in the Olympic Games.
The event consists of going down a bumpy field with two jumps. Skiers are judged on their speed, technical turns, and acrobatic jumping skills; account is taken of both difficulty and jumping ability.
The current grand champion of the discipline is Perrine Laffont, who has broken all records for precocity in mogul skiing. She competed in her first Olympic Games in 2014 in Sochi when she was merely 15 years old, and her first world championships at 16. At the age of 17, she won her first World Cup event, and then went on to win the gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics at the age of 19. She recently won her second Crystal Globe. And last February, in Park City, USA, she “only” finished third at the World Championships and won her second Parallel Moguls World Championship title.
This is an extremely spectacular discipline. The skiers hurtle down ramps at about 65 km/h, to launch themselves into the sky to heights of more than 12m, where they performs multiple flips and twists... Each competitor passes twice and it is the combination of these two performances that gives the final score, taking into account the difficulty of their performance and skill of execution. Sébastien Foucras won a magnificent silver medal at the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998.
The ski cross is the equivalent on skis of the boardercross competition on snowboards. It is a race down a course with steep turns and bumps, in which competitors must display technical prowess, physical strength and, above all, real tactical thinking. It is a knockout competition, with the final being contested by four or six skiers. Its inclusion at the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010 was an immediate success. The French are especially remembered for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, where they achieved a historic hat trick with Jean-Frédéric Chapuis, Arnaud Bovolenta, and Jonathan Midol taking gold, silver and bronze respectively. Jonathan Midol won the World Cup this season and finished 2nd in the large Crystal Globe. And François Place won the world championships in the United States last February.
Slopestyle comes from street skateboarding and has been adapted to the obstacles encountered in the ski resort. It consists of performing tricks by descending several obstacles such as tables, rails, etc. Competitors pass several times in front of a panel of five judges and their best score is taken into account. The discipline first appeared as Olympic events in the 2014 Winter Games. So far, the French have not won any medals in this sport chiefly dominated by Canadian, Swiss and American athletes.
During the last World Championships, slopestyle events were cancelled because of bad weather conditions.
Half-pipe skiing is another extremely spectacular discipline derived from snowboarding, which perfectly met the expectations of the IOC, which wanted to rejuvenate its audience when it decided to include it on its program for the Olympic Games in Sochi. The sport consists of a series of tricks on a track dug out to form a large semi-cylindrical structure with vertical walls. The skiers perform hair-raising jumps. The American David Wise has won the two Olympic gold medals awarded so far. On the women's side, the Frenchwoman Marie Martinod won the Olympic silver medal twice in 2014 and 2018, a spectacular return to high-level sport despite her decision to retire from competitions in 2007 in order to start a family and manage a bar.
Unlike the other disciplines, no Olympic Games have so far staged an event in this sport. And for good reason: it belongs to the tradition of snow sliding sports in which the dominant philosophy was to give free rein to one's creativity and test the limits of one’s physical courage. In big air events, competitors launch off a very large jump and perform complex tricks in the air whose technical precision, inventiveness, difficulty, etc. are assessed by a panel of judges.
The Frenchwoman Tess Ledeux was crowned world champion at the last World Cup in Park City.