What is Freestyle Skiing?

What is Freestyle Skiing

There are many exciting and creative sports out there that get the adrenaline pumping for viewers and participants alike, and one such is freestyle skiing. Of course, most people are familiar with the general concept of skiing. Yet, many remain blissfully unaware of the various types of skiing out there.

There’s Alpine skiing, freeride skiing, freestyle skiing, and cross-country skiing, just to name a few. In the popular imagination, skiing is simply riding down a snow-capped mountain on a snowboard or skis. Naturally, now that you know that there are various unique types of skiing, you are more open to learning about the various types.

Today we’ll be answering a question that many beginners ask when introduced to the world of skiing: what is freestyle skiing? If you’ve been looking online in search of a satisfactory answer but haven’t been able to find one, worry no more!

Our comprehensive guide will tell you what is freestyle skiing, and everything you need to know about the activity.

What is Freestyle Skiing?

In our experience, including the word freestyle in any activity provides a great hint into the activity itself. For instance, in freestyle rap, there is an appreciation for raw creativity and quick-wittedness because the artist must construct the bars on the go without knowing how things will end.

Skiing is obviously very different from rap, but the word freestyle in either brings them together. Freestyle skiing can best be thought of as the matrimony between skiing and acrobatics. It is one of the athletically demanding forms of skiing.

The freestyle aspect comes wherein the skier performs various spins, flips, rail slides, and jumps. The reason for its immense popularity is the sheer skill that it requires and the culture that surrounds the sport. Participants in freestyle skiing are some of the most adventurous and daring individuals out there.

Freestyle skiing constitutes several forms within it. These include aerial skiing, skicross, slopestyle, mogul skiing, ski ballet, and half-pipe skiing. In each form, the fundamental need for tricks, flips, and spins remains consistent.

Freestyle skiing became an official Winter Olympic sport in 1992, after a successful trial in the 1988 Olympics. It is now one of the most popular winter Olympic sports out there. Let’s now turn our attention to the different types of freestyle skiing.

Types of Freestyle Skiing

We’ve answered the most basic question: what is freestyle skiing? However, there is still a lot to discuss. You can’t know what freestyle skiing is all about until you’re well-acquainted with the types of freestyle skiing. We’ll go over these in this section.

Aerial Skiing

It is only right that we begin with aerial skiing, as this was one of the first recognized forms of freestyle skiing. Olympic gold medalist Stein Eriksen is widely credited with bringing aerial skiing to center stage.

As the name suggests, aerial skiing requires skiers to gain air time by skiing off jumps that are about 2 to 4 meters high. These jumps allow the athlete to fling themselves off to a height of around 6 meters. While the athlete is in the air, the freestyle element comes properly into play.

Athletes are expected to perform spins and flips while in the air to demonstrate their ability. They must also land safely on the landing slope which is inclined at an angle between 34 to 39 degrees. Since aerial skiing is a competition, judges score the participants based on criteria and provide a final score.

The criteria for judgement are, take off, form landing. They are worth 20%, 50%, and 30% of the score, respectively. While the part of the jump where the freestyling will be done is obviously the highest rated aspect of the whole activity, it is clear that landing properly is also a crucial part of the process.

You may be curious how athletes train for aerial skiing in the summers. Well, lucky for them that there are various facilities dedicated to providing the equipment to carry out training during this time. These facilities provide water ramps that replicate the jumps in the actual event. For safety, the athletes land in swimming pools.

Since part of the event involves a large amount of acrobatic ability, athletes incorporate gymnastics into their training during the summer.

Mogul Skiing

Mogul skiing will be more consistent with the mental image that most people have about skiing. Mogul skiing involves a one-time timed run down a slope. One key aspect that the casual observer will probably not know is that it is called mogul skiing because moguls riddle the slope.

So, what exactly is a mogul? Well, when skiers frequent a piste, bumps begin to form naturally all over the course. These bumps are a result of the sharp turns and manoeuvres that skiers perform while on the slope. Of course, the moguls make skiing much harder, but that’s the entire point in mogul skiing.

Mogul skiing tests an athlete ability to navigate these bumps with both aggression and grace. A strange combination for sure, but it clarifies why it’s one of the most challenging forms of freestyle skiing.

Since the competition is timed, athletes are judged based on their speed across the course. That’s not the only criterion, though; there are also two jumps on the piste. These jumps allow for skiers to gain hang time and do tricks like turns and flips mid-air. Navigating the bumps themselves is also part of the challenge.

Here is how judges evaluate each athlete. The most important consideration is turns. These count for 60% of the total score. There are lots of subjective aspects to judging turns, but a general rubric is available. Skiers should aim to have clean turns without skidding, keep their head still, chest straight, arms in a natural position, and face downhill.

Surprisingly speed counts for only 15% of the total score. The second biggest criterion for judgement is performance in the aerial section. Judges rank the skiers form during the jump and make adjustments for the difficulty of the jump itself.

Ski Cross

Another interesting form of freestyle skiing is ski cross. This is particularly intriguing because many people are unable to distinguish between alpine skiing and ski cross. This is because ski cross, like alpine skiing, is also a timed event.

However, what sets it apart is the presence of features typically associated with freestyle skiing. This includes unique terrain features, jumps, and high-banked turns. Perhaps the biggest distinction between the two is the fact that multiple skiers traverse the slope in Skicross.

This adds to the thrill and excitement of the competition and makes it a challenge of speed and skill.

Ski Ballet

Presently known as Acroski, ski ballet was a competition that took figure skating elements and applied them to skiing. Skiers were not just athletes but also performers, expected to put on a routine and synchronize it with music.

Routines ranged from elegant to the overly complicated to the downright dangerous. Synchronized movements also became an interesting part of acroski when pairs were allowed to compete as a team. Another defining feature of acroski was the choreography that went into designing the routines.

The quality of the choreography combined with how well it incorporated elements of freestyle skiing such as flips, turns, spins, and turns formed the basis of the judging criteria. Unfortunately, acroski was discontinued as a competitive sport and replaced by aerial and mogul skiing which were later also accepted as valid sports by the Olympics.

Half-Pipe Skiing

A relatively fresh introduction to the world of competitive freestyle skiing at the Olympics, half-pipe skiing is a true test of skill. One can make estimations about the risks involved based on the fact that it is one of the few skiing events that require athletes to wear a helmet and that it has been a part of the winter X-games for quite a while.

While the thrill for the audience and indubitably for the athlete as well is undeniable, one cannot understate the dangers of half-pipe skiing. It is certainly the most dangerous form of skiing out there.

If you’re familiar with skateboarding, you would already know what a half-pipe is. A giant semi-circle shaped structure on which the athlete goes around, gaining momentum before gaining air time. In the air, the athlete performs various tricks going down the pipe.

Given the dangerous nature of the activity itself, half-pipe skiing has a controversial history. Previously, an athlete has died during a training exercise. To add to the complications, athletes are required to do riskier manoeuvres than before to really impress the audience and the judges. This naturally increases the risk of injury and fatality.

Slopestyle Skiing

Another form of freestyle skiing that the Olympics has only recently accepted as a valid winter sport traces its origins back to extreme sports. That should tell you everything you need to know about slopestyle skiing.

Like most extreme sports, slopestyle skiing offers a unique combination of excitement and thrill to its audience. It involves a skier going down a course that is littered with terrain features like jumps, rails, and big turns. The skier must utilize these features to perform acrobatic tricks such as flips, spins, grabs and grinds.

The judges score the athlete based on the frequency, difficulty, and ingenuity of the tricks. This provides plenty of incentive for skiers to put on a dazzling display and showcase the true range of their athletic skills.

Freestyle Skiing Equipment List

We’ve answered the question: what is freestyle skiing? We have also discussed the various types of freestyle skiing and the unique features of each type. Let’s now take a comprehensive list of all the items you’ll need to get started.


This feels silly even mentioning, but yes, of course, you’ll need skis first and foremost. The skis you need will vary by the type of freestyle skiing you wish to participate in. Half-pipe and slopestyle skiing can use the same kind of skis. Other than that, Mogul, aerial, and cross ski all use different types of ski.


Once again, pretty much a necessity if you want to ski. These are the same for all types of freestyle skiing.


Needless to say, visibility can become a huge issue when you’re skiing down a mountain. This is because the sun’s light reflecting off of the white snow creates a good blinding effect. Googles help reduce the impact of this phenomenon.

Furthermore, they also prevent snow from going into your eyes or fast winds from forcing you to close your eyes while on the way down.


Safety is important, more so when you’re involved in a high-speed slide down a mountain. Wear your helmet to prevent serious head injuries.

Our Final Thoughts

Finally, you have the answer to your question – what is freestyle skiing? Not only that, you have received a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about the activity. If you’re looking to get started with freestyle skiing, follow the link and get access to the best products and articles related to this exciting sport.

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