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History

The 1960s were exciting times. Young people looked for different ways to express themselves and that freedom of expression crossed over into winter sports. Freestyle skiing was born in America during the 1960s thanks to a mixture of modern equipment and new techniques along with the desire for self-expression. Originally, a combination of alpine skiing and acrobatics and often referred to as “Hot Dogging”, the first Freestyle skiing competition took place in Attitash, New Hampshire in 1966 and the sport quickly developed a reputation for being wild and flamboyant. Since those early times, “Hot Dogging” became freestyle skiing and aerials in particular has developed into the present-day Olympic sport we all love.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) recognised Freestyle as a sport in 1978 and brought new regulations regarding certification of athletes and jump techniques in an effort to curb the dangerous elements of the competitions. The first Freestyle FIS World Cup series began in the 1979 winter season and as the sport gained popularity. By 1981 it was looking pretty good, see classic TV coverage from Utah. The first FIS Freestyle World Championships were held in 1986 in Tignes, France.

British Freestyle

Great Britain has a lasting legacy in Freestyle skiing, particularly in Aerials. British pioneers of the sport from the earliest days include Peter Hankey, Sarah Ferguson, Mike Payne and Linda Lemieux. Linda became manager of the first British Freestyle Team during the 1980s and was joined by Sarah Ferguson as coach to the team in 1983. During the 80’s Britain saw success in both Europa Cup and World Cup. Mike Nemesvary won 3 World Cups in 1982/83 which inspired Mike Whealey to win the overall Europa Cup in 1984 and finish 6th in aerials at the 1986 Freestyle World Championships in Tignes, France. Jilly Curry finished 7th in that event and her winning ways continued into the 90s, with a 2nd place in the 1991 World Cup in La Clusaz, France. There was also success for Richard Cobbing who placed 2nd in aerials at the 1993 World Championships in Altenmarkt, Austria and went on to finish 2nd in the 1995 World Cup in Piancavallo, Italy.

Since the inception of the World Cup under FIS jurisdiction, Great Britain has achieved 3 wins, 16 podium places and over 80 top 10 places in World Cup Aerials, along with a silver medal and 2 further top 10 places in World Championships, 20 top 10 places in Europa Cup and 8 top 10s in NorAm Cups. Results an alpine nation would be proud of!

Olympics

A relative newcomer to the Olympic Winter Games, Freestyle skiing made its Olympic debut back in Calgary in 1988 as a demonstration sport. Freestyle Moguls became a full medal event at the 1992 games in Albertville, where aerials was once again a demonstration sport. Britain’s Jilly Curry performed well finishing in 4th place. Freestyle Aerials was added as a full medal sport for the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer. Ski Cross was added to the Olympic Programme following Turin 2006 and Freestyle Ski Cross made its debut in Vancouver in 2010. The newest Olympic Winter Games disciplines, Slopestyle and Halfpipe, made their their debut in Sochi, Russia in 2014 with considerable success for TeamGB.

2002 Salt Lake Games, the Men’s Aerial Final was the first ticketed event to ‘sell-out’.

Early aerial competition. Photo courtesy of Dave Bossard

Robin Wallace GBR on the podium in 2nd place