When I was a kid, I wanted to be in the Olympics. I wanted to stand on the podium with a gold medal around my neck and hear the national anthem. On the surface, the Olympics represent everything that is great about sport and humanity. Directly below that surface is an ugly and corrupt infrastructure that puts its own interests before that of the athletes.
These days, your average Joey Bagadonuts from Loon is more interested in grabbin' his skis in the air than running slalom gates. The imagery that dominates skiing and snowboarding is about the sport's progression: new terrain, new tricks, new competitions and new style.
It takes at least four years of arguing to change anything at the Olympics. Mogul skiers did quad tricks in the Seventies, but only last year were they sanctioned for FIS and Olympic competition. In an hour-long meeting, the X Games decided to add Slopestyle and Halfpipe for skiers to its menu of competitions to be held this winter in Aspen. In this day and age, you need to keep up with ever-changing times.
Andy, I grant you that there's nothing more important in skiing than an Olympic medal. As Jonny Moseley puts it, "The Olympics give you the opportunity to once and for all say 'I am the best.'" But the day after he won that gold, Moseley quit competing in moguls and pursued his interest in freeskiing events, competing for the next two years at the X Games and winning the Slopestyle at the 2000 U.S. Freeskiing Open. Why? That is the only place where he could promote himself as a skier and not just as a B-rated celebrity.
Who organizes the Olympics? If you own a fine jewelry store in the Salt Lake area, chances are you know them personally. American taxpayers are paying some $1.5 billion to help fund the Salt Lake Games. Don't ask me where that money is going, but chances are the Jamaican Bobsled Team won't see much of it. On the other hand, the X Games will ask you for nothing more than to watch a group of 20-somethings evolve skiing and snowboarding-again and again.
Michael Jaquet is the publisher of Freeze Magazine (freezeonline.com), which founded and runs the U.S. Freeskiing Open.