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Rules and Judging

The judging panel consists of seven judges, who evaluate take-off, height and distance (air), form and twisting technique during the somersaults and precision of landing. Air makes up 20 percent of the score. Form makes up 50 percent of the score. Landing makes up 30 percent of the score.

Five judges score air and form, with the high and low scores being discarded and the remaining three scores added together. Two judges score the landing, with the average of the two scores multiplied by three to obtain the overall landing score. The landing score is added to the three air/form scores and multiplied by the appropriate Degree of Difficulty (DD) to determine the total score for each jump.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has been testing a new Judging format; Instead of seven judges, (including two for landing), only five judges will be used to mark the ‘overall’ score for an athlete’s performance; from take-off to landing. Due to the increasing complexity of aerial manoeuvres, there will also be an “Aerial Specialist” in the judge’s stand (usually an ex-competitor or coach) who will have video replay facilities available, should the judges require technical confirmation.

Aerial competitions usually consist of two different jumps from a prepared jump. Scores from both jumps are added together to obtain the final result. If the second round cannot be held (e.g. due to weather problems), then the results from the first round may be used to determine the final result.

During season 2011/2012 a new knockout format was tested; where the top four skiers may need to perform three different jumps. This new format is now being adopted as the new Olympic and World Championship Format. All athletes compete in a semi-final or qualification round which usually consists of one jump per competitor; the top six scorers automatically advance to finals. Everyone else competes one more jump in a second round and the top six finishers from that round also progress to the 12-competitor finals field.

There are then either two or three single-jump rounds to make up the finals, where the competitors are whittled from 12 to eight to four athletes. The catch is; athletes must compete a different jump in each of the finals rounds (athletes can repeat their semi-final jump in one of the final rounds). In order to win the competition, each aerialist will need to perform three different jumps from their repertoire, up from two in the previous Olympic format.

Competitors will have to work on strategy with their coaches to decide which jump to use at which point in the competition, dependent on what other competitors are performing in each round. As with any new format, even the coaches will find it a challenge. World Ski Championships and Olympic Winter Games will use the Championship format, with Qualifications and Finals held over two days (e.g. Qualifications on one day, Finals on another day).

An old style judges stand

Modern weatherproof judges stand

The judges viewpoint