Overall Impression creates an environment that can adapt to the progression of freeskiing, allowing the athletes to move the sport forward without mandated rules or restrictions. This philosophy, which was generated early on with the creation of X Games, has continually been refined to offer more consistent judging from event to event.
A judge knows the Overall Impression by heart and always has it in mind when judging. This criterion is the key to creating an accurate ranking.
Overall Impression Criteria
In order to recognize progression a judge must have a current knowledge of competitive freeskiing. New and progressive tricks keep freeskiing moving forward and will be rewarded. Arguably, progressive tricks can still be rewarded without perfect execution. The following are elements of a run that fall under the progression criteria:
• New and uncommon tricks
• New or more technical axis' or rotations
• New, uncommon or difficult grabs
• New variations of existing tricks or grabs
• Creativity (grabs, line, use of the course)
Bigger amplitude can accentuate a clean, well-executed trick and leave a strong impression. Judges take note of the level of amplitude throughout an entire Halfpipe run. Consistent high amplitude all the way down the pipe will be rewarded. Maintained amplitude requires excellent takeoffs, landings, line and travel through the flat bottom.
A good pipe or slope run has a variety of tricks, grabs and axis. Variety shows that the competitor has a complete repertoire of tricks. Tricks should not be repeated in a single run, and if they are the run should be deducted accordingly. Judges look for the following in a run with good variety:
• Multiple directions of movement: forward and switch
• Multiple directions of rotation: leftside and rightside
• Multiple axis: upright, off-axis, inverted, flatspin and doublecork
• Halfpipe: down the pipe spins and ally-oop spins
• Multiple grabs: no one want's to see the same grab on every trick. For this reason, a variety of grabs will be rewarded.
Execution encompasses many things: takeoff, landing, grabs, air control, breaks in form, hand drags and crashes. It is important to recognize a well executed run as well as a poorly executed run and know how to score each appropriately. When determining execution a judge should ask themselves the following questions:
• How clean were the takeoffs? Always set clean, or were they rushed and started prematurely?
• How long were the grabs held for?
• Did the skier maintain control in the air, or were their arms swinging or flailing?
• Did they slide the rails cleanly to the end, or did they come off early?
• How clean were the landings? Any hand drags or butt checks?
• Halfpipe: Did they land clean on the transition, or were they landing in the flat bottom?
• Did they take a clean line through the Halfpipe and ride the transitions well?
It is important that a judge can estimate the difficulty of every trick. This requires an understanding of the different direction of rotation. Every person has a natural and unnatural direction that they spin. A judge must look for spins in both directions and know that unnatural spins and considerably more difficult. Judges consider the following when determining difficulty:
• Amount of rotation
• Direction of rotation (left/right, natural/unnatural)
• Direction of movement (Switch/Forward)
• Different grabs can make a trick considerably more difficult, especially in greater rotations.
• Axis of the trick: upright, off-axis, inverted, flatspin, doublecork
• Creative lines and transfers can definitely make a run more difficult
Proper Trick Recognition
Proper trick recognition is one of the most important skills that a judge needs to have. A judge must know the tricks and recognize them quickly without much thought. In addition, outside of the booth, judges should discuss tricks with the other judges and the athletes as well as watch other competitions to familiarize yourself with what is current.
Recognizing Execution and Mistakes
AFP Judges are aware of what a properly executed trick looks like. They know how much insecurity will affect the score, as well as how much good execution will improve a score.
AFP's judging philosophy is focused on the ranking, not the score. The same run may be a 65 at one competition and a 75 at another. This is fine because at each event that run will be ranked better than the run behind it and worse than the run in front of it. In the end, the ranking is the only thing that matters and the actual score is a tool for organizing the ranking.
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Click here to read about the history of judging freeskiing from AFP Judge & Associate Mike Atkinson.