Skiing, snowboarding athletes using slope-sized air bags to hone acrobatic trickery
“It’s awesome in ways and it sucks in ways.”
December 18, 2017
BRECKENRIDGE — A few years ago, California's slopestyle queen Jamie Anderson said there was no way she would follow the men into the inverted double backflipping trickery showcased in snowboarding's increasingly acrobatic contests.
Then 16-year-old Hailey Langland landed the first double-cork for women at this year's X Games, earning gold. In June, Anderson landed her first double-cork 900, a trick she was so close to landing in Saturday's Olympic-qualifying Dew Tour competition, where she earned second and qualified to compete in the Pyeongchang Games in February. She learned the trick by flying into a giant, sloping air bag at Mammoth, honing the twice-upside-down flip with the benefit of a billowy balloon.
"Which I think is really whack in general and I wish it was banned from snowboarding," said the 27-year-old who won gold in the Olympic debut of slopestyle at the Sochi Games. "It was a complete game-changer from when you learn things from the ground up like back in the day when you had to wait for pow day and build a jump and to try the tricks you want to do. I think air bags are cool and they are definitely progressing the sport, I just am not the biggest fan. It's just changing our sport a lot and it's awesome in ways and it (stinks) in ways."
The development of the sloping air bag this year is the wellspring behind the youthful generation of skiers and snowboarders who are suddenly capable of the gravity-defying trickery showcased by grizzled veterans. At a growing number of international training facilities, athletes are perfecting tricks that once required months of painful trial and error on snowy slopes. They flip on trampolines and bounce into a new type of air bag that allows skiers and snowboarders to ride away from their landings.