Come this February, free-skiing's addition to the Olympic lineup in Sochi, Russia, will bring to the mainstream a sport that has until now existed in the shadows at the sides of the slopes. That means there will be Olympic gold medals at stake in halfpipe and slopestyle, and twin-tipped skis will finally become recognized tools of bona fide Olympians. If there's one free-skier who will capture the hearts and minds of American audiences, it's almost certainly the athlete who put halfpipe skiing on the map in the first place: Simon Dumont.
An X Games mainstay in the halfpipe since he was 15 years old, Dumont is now a 27-year-old veteran with a bucketful of X Games golds to his name. He's largely seen as the godfather of the sport, and was instrumental in the push to get free-skiing and the half pipe into the Olympics. Now, he's in New Zealand recovering from a series of brutal injuries to his ankle and wrists on an accelerated timeline in order to get healthy in time for the Olympics.
"I'm just going to go one step at a time," Dumont says of his chances of competing in the Olympics. "I'm confident, and I've always performed when I've needed to perform. This is the one event that I haven't podiumed in my life, and it's something I want bad." To get us warmed up for the coming Olympic games, Dumont gave 'Men's Journal' a crash course in the art and intricacies of the halfpipe, as well as an insider's view into what to expect at Sochi. Here's what he had to say.
Every halfpipe is unique.
Unlike most sports, the playing field in the halfpipe competition doesn't have fixed dimensions. So while every halfpipe abides by a similar blueprint, in the details each one is unique and variations can be great. A halfpipe's designer decides on the pitch, slope, and height. While the effect of the pitch and slope is obvious – a steeper pitch and slope results in more speed – the varying heights of halfpipes are more give and take. "I've seen 14-foot halfpipes up to 1 foot half one," Dumont says. "That was standard for a good six years, and now we have the 22-foot halfpipe, which means there's more transition and a little bit more room for error."
As skiers come down one wall, they cross the flat bottom while building up speed for their next aerial, and into the transition and vertical or "vert" parts of the wall. It's in the vert where designers have the biggest impact. "It's what brings you back into the pipe," says Dumont. "If you don't have enough vert, it doesn't matter how hard you push off the wall – you're going to land on the deck. So vert is very crucial."
Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images