Freestyle skiiers descend on Placid, Wilmington for World Cup

The FIS USANA Freestyle World Cup will take place in Lake Placid and Wilmington Jan. 15-18.

The FIS USANA Freestyle World Cup will take place in Lake Placid and Wilmington Jan. 15-18.

— Before the sporting world shifts its attention towards Russia next month for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Lake Placid and Wilmington will take center-podium as they host the FIS USANA Freestyle World Cup from Jan. 15-18.

This is the final World Cup event before several nations, including the United States, submit their Olympic team rosters to the International Olympic Committee by Sunday, Jan. 19.

Over 150 athletes from 25 countries will participate in this dangerous-yet-enthralling form of competitive skiing that encompasses a half-dozen disciplines that fall into two main branches.

Aerials and moguls, the more traditional subset, sees skiers attempt to execute a series of complicated moves and maneuvers down specially-graded inclines studded with small protuberances, both man-made and natually occuring, called “moguls” while aerials sees competitors launching themselves off steep snow-packed ramps before somersaulting — like diving, but with skis — into the glittering white abyss below. Competitors receive a score based three criteria — jump takeoff, jump form and landing — by a panel of judges. Those with the most World Cup point totals throughout the circuit become champs and have a better chance of making the Olympic teams.

The newer freeskiing branch called “new school,” a spin-off that borrows as much from skateboarding and BMX as is does from traditional skiing with events like the halfpipe and slopestyle that surged in popularity in the late-1990s, are not included in the World Cup’s competitive slate.

Freestyle skiing in general is a relatively late newcomer to the winter sports arsenal. The Switzerland-based International Ski Federation (FIS) first recognized it as a sport in 1979, held the inaugural World Cup series the following year and spearheaded the first world championship in 1986. Mogul and aerials were added to Winter Olympics in the mid-1990s, with mogul competitors debuting in the 1992 Albertville Games and aerial following two years later at Lillehammer.

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