The 2019 FIS technical committee meetings took place last week once again at the Hilton Zurich Airport hotel in Switzerland, with four days of planning, strategizing and implementation on the part of subcommittees and other groups culminating in Friday’s day-long Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski Committee meeting.
With briefs from the heads of the Freeski and Snowboard Park & Pipe, Cross, Moguls & Aerials, Alpine Snowboard, and several other subcommittees, an extensive discussion on strategies, direction, and action for the various events under the Committee umbrella, and presentations from the likes of Krasnoyrask 2025, Beijing 2022, and Lausanne 2020, there was a huge amount of ground covered over the course of Friday’s meeting.
Here we’ll illustrate some of the highlights, beginning with perhaps the biggest news of the season for fans of FIS Snowboard, Freestyle, and Freeski - the announcement that ALL World Cup events will be live streamed on the FIS Snowboard or FIS Freestyle YouTube channels this season, available for free viewing in all nations where a national broadcaster does not hold exclusive rights to the event. Already the season-opening FIS Snowboard big air World Cup and the FIS Freeski halfpipe World Cup competitions in Cardrona (NZL) have been livestreamed, and we look forward to growing engagement and viewership over the season with this hugely exciting development in the partnership between FIS and our broadcast rights holders at InFront Sports & Media.
Park & Pipe
With the international competition rulebook now fully harmonized between Snowboard and Freeski, Park & Pipe Contest Director Roberto Moresi opened the subcommittee reports by addressing minor complications in season scheduling as FIS continues efforts to avoid conflicts with other major event organizers such as the X Games and Dew Tour.
Moresi also spoke on the slopestyle/big air qualification process for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, which have been moved forward slightly from their originally-planned dates. For slopestyle and big air athletes, a rider’s best six slopestyle, best four big air, and world championships results from within the qualification period will now be counted towards the rider’s Olympic status.
As well, the harmonization of the FIS and World Snowboard Federation’s ranking lists continues to be a topic of discussion, with full implementation of the joint points list slated for spring 2022. While the partnership with WSF paints a clear way forward for a comprehensive Snowboard ranking list, a similar independent ranking system for Freeski will be a major topic of focus in the coming months.
Work on harmonization of the International Competition Rules continues to be a main point of focus in the world of ski and snowboard cross, as the two disciplines continue on the long process of working out the details towards the complicated goal of increased synergy. Cross Race Director JP Baralo spoke of some of the difficulties in these efforts while maintaining a positive outlook for the future, whatever it may hold.
On the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup side of things, the Cross Alps Tour was once again on the agenda, as tweaks to the season-opening four-stop tour are likely in the future. Though the Val Thorens (FRA), Montafon (AUT), Arosa (SUI), and Innichen (ITA) order of dates will continue this season, the proposition of finishing the tour with the Arosa nighttime sprint event in future seasons has widespread support.
One other major issue discussed was the cancellation of the scheduled Secret Garden (CHN) SX and SBX World Cups. Intended as a warm-up for the Zhangjiakou 2021 FIS Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships, the local organizer was forced to pull the plug on this season’s World Cup events due to budgetary complications. Though no such problem is forecast for next season’s world championships or, of course, for the 2022 OWGs at the same venue, this season’s cancellation is unfortunate for all parties. Talks of a smaller-scale Asian Continental Cup competition during the same time period will continue in the lead-up to the season.
Moguls & Aerials
The 2019/20 season will be a transitional one behind the scenes for Moguls & Aerials, as long-time FIS Freestyle Coordinator and Race Director Joe Fitzgerald concludes a career that spans over 20 years in the organisation. Andrea Rinaldi will be working in conjunction with Fitzgerald this season, before stepping in to lead the longest-running events under the Snowboard, Freestyle, and Freeski umbrella in the 2020/21 season.
With the competition rule book well established and few major issues in need of addressing at last week’s meetings, the Moguls & Aerials subcommittee focused their attention on dual moguls and working to define a set of rules for a team duals competition. With mixed team aerials added to the Olympic programme for the Beijing 2022 Games, hopes are high that an Olympic mixed team dual moguls competition will follow in due course.
Finally there was some technological news, with Fitzgerald presenting an advanced motion-capture judging-aid system that is entering the latter phases of development. Whether this tool will work as an assistant to human judging or will eventually fully automate the process remains to be seen, but either way it will be sure to revolutionize sport judging if, or when, it is implemented.
Similarly to Moguls & Aerials, the Alpine Snowboard subcommittee faced few major decisions in Zurich this year, focusing instead on refining the rule book, optimizing the World Cup and Europa Cup calendars, and continuing to foster the main facets of the tour’s success, including gender parity, strong and dedicated local organizers, and a consistent and committed fan base with good TV ratings in Central Europe”
Discussion took place on the feasibility of following the model established by other events under the Snowboard, Freestyle, and Freeski umbrella wherein qualification results can stand as final results in the event should finals be cancelled as a result of force majeure. As well, FIS Alpine Snowboarding - like all other FIS Snowboard events - will be transitioning away from the 1,000 point system to a 100 point system, as a result of the ongoing harmonization efforts. Also, a proposal was put forward that would allow a course reset between seeding/qualification runs and finals, should riders consistently finish with times of .75% difference or more between the two courses.
Finally, and similarly to the wishes for mixed team dual moguls from the Moguls & Aerials subcommittee, Alpine SB subcommittee members discussed the desire to establish a mixed team competition in the coming seasons with the ultimate goal of landing another Alpine event in the Olympic Winter Games - ideally in time for Milano-Cortina 2026, in the Alpine Snowboard hotspot of Italy.