The upcoming Winter Olympic games marks the first time that Freeskiing—not to be confused with Freestyle—is a sanctioned sport. Like Snowboarding, Freeskiing will include Halfpipe and Slopestyle events. If you’ve followed the X Games or the Dew Tour events over the years, you’re sure to see some familiar faces on prime time broadcast of the 2014 Winter Olympics in February.
There are two particular U.S. Freeskiing athletes to watch during the Olympic qualifiers over the next couple weeks: Devin Logan, 20, of Mount Snow, Vt. and Gus Kenworthy, 22, of Telluride, Colo. Based on their past rankings, they could compete at the Olympic level in both the Halfpipe and Slopestyle events. Logan, for the women, and Kenworthy, for the men, placed first overall in 2011 and 2012 on the competition circuit. How the qualification rounds shake-down could determine which event(s) these multi-discipline athletes choose to focus on when it comes time for Sochi.
U.S. Freeskiing Halfpipe
In addition to Logan and Kenworthy, U.S. halfpipe competitors to watch include Maddie Bowman, 19, of Lake Tahoe, who nabbed first for halfpipe for the 2013 season, and second in 2012, as well as Angeli VanLaanen, 24, of Bellingham, Wash. In an incredible comeback, VanLaanen nabbed second place at the most recent Dew Tour event (which was an Olympic qualifier). VanLaanen, who now skis out of Salt Lake City, has been struggling with Lyme’s Disease which forced her to take a three-year hiatus. She’s now in remission and shows no signs of slowing down.
Aspen’s Torin Yater-Wallace, 18, is currently dealing with a rib injury incurred during a training run for the Dew Tour event. The young halfpipe phenom is a consistent and deft competitor— and a favorite to podium. Reno’s David Wise, 23, who is currently sitting in first for halfpipe rankings is also expected to put on one incredible display of athleticism and style at Sochi. Long-time halfpipe competitor Simon Dumont, 27, of Sunday River, Maine, who is renowned for his ability to boost extremely high out of the halfpipe is hanging on for his chance to compete in the Olympics for the first time.
Keep an eye out for two young Colorado guns: Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck, 17, who earned his first X Games invite last year and ended up in an impressive seventh place out of the gate, and Lyman Currier, 19, who grew up skiing at Beaver Creek. In the most recent Olympic qualifier in Breckenridge, the Americans swept the podium, with Wise in first, Blunck in second and Currier in third. The Men’s Freeskiing Halfpipe Team is shaping up to be incredibly stacked.
U.S. Freeskiing Slopestyle
Indiana-native Nick Goepper, 19, who skis at Mount Snow’s Carinthia Park, took the freeskiing community by surprise two years ago, nabbing silver at his first X Games. Since then, there’s been no looking back and Goepper continues to consistently podium at events like X Games and Dew Tour.
Tom Wallisch, 26, of Pittsburg, Penn., has been battling back this season after a torn ACL last season. Wallisch, who trains out of Utah’s Park City Mountain Resort, is renowned in the snowsports world as being one of the most stylish skiers in the game. He’s a treat to watch in action. Breckenridge’s Bobby Brown, 22, has been struggling to consistently throw down a run in the Olympic qualifiers, but Brown is an athlete who is always pushing himself to try new tricks, and when he lands, he usually wins.
In addition to Devin Logan, who’s been doing particularly well in Slopestyle qualifiers, it’s rookie, 15-year-old Maggie Voisin of Whitefish, Mont. who’s really turning heads. The youngster won the latest Olympic qualifier event in Breckenridge, Colo. Veteran Keri Herman, 30, of Breckenridge, is one to watch as well, as she has the experience and stamina to push through the challenges that lie ahead.