Big Mountain freeskiing events: Spectator sport or clown show?

Ask Dr. Flake

If we're lucky, both. Flake finds freeskiing events the most watchable of skiing competitions, what with ballsy athletes choosing their own lines through a mountain's natural terrain features. Scoring is based on five categories: line choice, control, fluidity, technique, and aggression. Better yet, free-skiers compete in normal ski clothes instead of creepy skinsuits that make spectators feel like perverts. As for the clown-show element, freeskiing has recently undergone a decrease in the testosterone-fueled, human-lawn-dart approach. "We're not impressed by Hollywood air or reckless riding anymore, says Dino Raiffault, head judge of the Verbier Ride 2004 event. (Not that big jumps are discouraged, but competitors better stick—and ski away from—their landings.) Still, don't expect to see them on primetime TV. Skiing, as noted by Tim Layden, senior writer at Sports Illustrated, lives with track and field "in a cable ghetto where only the truly devoted will venture in search of entertainment.