Freestyle skiers have been wowing Olympic fans with their jaw-dropping manoeuvres since they appeared in a demonstration event at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. But how much do you know about the discipline?

 

History lesson

While there are records of people performing somersaults on skis at the beginning of the 20th century in Europe, freestyle skiing really began to take off in the US during the 1960s, with Norwegian Olympic gold medallist Stein Eriksen, who won the giant slalom at the 1952 Winter Games, playing a key role in popularising the new aerials discipline at ski resorts across the country.

 

At the Games

Freestyle skiing was contested as a demonstration sport at the Olympic Winter Games Calgary 1988, with moguls, aerials and ballet events for both men and women. Four years later, moguls became an official medal event at the Albertville 1992 Winter Games, followed by aerials in Lillehammer in 1994.

An exciting mix

Today, freestyle skiing comprises five very different events at the Olympic Winter Games: moguls, aerials, ski cross, ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle.

 

Size matters

Freestyle skis tend to be much shorter than those used for Alpine ski racing. In aerials, for instance, the typical ski length is around 160cm, whereas for downhill racing skis are usually over 200cm.

 

A bumpy ride

Moguls take place on steep runs featuring artificially created bumps. The slope usually has a gradient of around 28 degrees, meaning it isn’t for the faint hearted!

 

We have lift off!

Aerial skiers jump off specially constructed snow ramps known as “kickers” to perform their gravity-defying somersaults and twists. The kickers range in height from 2-4 metres and in angle from 50-70 degrees, with athletes launching up to six metres in the air.

 

Thrills and spills

A ski cross course is usually around 1km in length, with four skiers racing side-by-side over jumps, rollers and steep turns – often leading to collisions and falls as they vie for position.

 

Newest additions

Ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle were both added to the Olympic programme for the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. Both events see athletes trying to impress judges by performing a series of difficult aerial tricks.