Vancouver 2010: Freestyle Skiing Events

As skin-tight speed suits attest, it’s not how good you look but how fast you go that wins you Olympic medals in the alpine disciplines. But in freestyle, style counts too.

Moguls Moguls competition, an Olympic event since 1992 (Albertville), rewards technical execution, artistic expression and speed. Competitors pinball down a steep bump field that’s interrupted by two kickers, one near the top and one near the bottom. Five judges award points for precise turns—knees together, skis in constant contact with the snow, shoulders parallel to the finish line—and two judges score the aerial maneuvers for difficulty, amplitude, execution and landing. Scores and times from the single-run qualifying round are combined to determine who advances to the single-run final round. The skier with the best time/score combination in the final round wins. America's best hopes: Hannah Kearney, Shannon Bahrke, Patrick Deneen, Nate Roberts

Aerials Take out the moguls and pump up the kickers, and you’ve got aerials. On the Olympic stage since 1994 (Lillehammer), it’s the winter counterpart to diving. Competitors choose their own starting point on one of two kickers, 6.5 or 8 meters, depending on their chosen maneuver. They straight-line their approach and once airborne flip and twist up to a total of 2,520 degrees at altitudes as high as 50 feet before returning to earth, ideally landing on their skis. Five judges score the jumps. The top 16 athletes from the two-jump qualifying round advance to the two-jump final. America's best hopes: Ryan St. Onge, Jeret Peterson, Emily Cook

Ski Cross This year, a third freestyle event, ski cross, makes its Olympic debut. Its survival-of-the-fittest format pits competitors against each other in heats of four racers, who jockey for position on a course that’s riddled with hairpin turns and big airs. After two qualifying rounds, the 32 fastest competitors advance. From there, the top two finishers from each of eight heats advance to the semifinal round and again to the single-heat, single-run final. Although “intentional contact” is illegal, expect to see plenty of bumps and taps and probably some carnage. America's best hopes: Daron Rahlves, Casey Puckett. For an in-depth look at the new event and America's top athletes, click here.

Who to watch: Hannah Kearney, USA; Dale Begg-Smith, AUS;Steve Omischl, CAN; Li Nina and the Chinese team; Tomas Kraus, CZE

Who's your pick to win?

View the trailer for Truth in Motion, a film about the U.S. Ski Team's Journey to the Olympics.

Freestyle events schedule 
Feb. 13: Women’s moguls
Feb. 14: Men’s moguls
Feb. 21: Men’s ski cross
Feb. 23: Women’s ski cross
Feb. 24: Women’s aerials
Feb. 25: Men’s aerials


Vancouver Bound

Olympics 2010: Ski Cross

The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross—make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.