Parallel Giant Slalom


  • Halfpipe, the slightly bratty sibling of alpine snowboarding events such as parallel giant slalom, features a lot of the elements most people associate with snowboarding – baggy pants, free-spirited competitors and wild tricks. It is a judged freestyle event in which riders perform a routine of acrobatic jumps, twists and tricks in a half-cylinder-shaped course of snow ramps.
  • The halfpipe competition looks a lot like skateboarding, snowboarding's dry-land cousin. However, whereas skateboarders use the same small pipe area to perform tricks during a timed run, snowboarding halfpipe riders leave from a start area and pull off maneuvers on alternating walls before crossing a finish line.
  • Runs are accompanied by music, although unlike figure skaters, riders don't synchronize their routines with their adrenaline rush-inducing tunes. The songs are blasted through loud speakers primarily for the spectators' enjoyment-and to energize the rider.


  • Freestyle snowboards are shorter and wider than alpine boards. The reduced length helps riders swing their boards more freely while performing tricks and the increased width provides more stability for the rider.
  • Halfpipe boards are designed with identical tails and noses so a snowboarder can take off and land facing either direction. Riders use soft bindings and boots, unlike alpine snowboarders, who use hard, alpine skiing-style boots that lock into a plate binding system. Freestyle boots are supple, allowing for maximum flexibility and maneuverability.
  • Since reducing wind resistance is not as crucial as it is in the parallel giant slalom, halfpipe riders don't go for skin-tight lycra suits, but wear the baggy pants and other loose-fitting gear that's more emblematic of snowboarding style. They do make a concession to safety with helmets, though, since they always run the risk of landing on their heads.

The pipe

  • The halfpipe event takes place in a semi-circular course made up of two vertical walls about three to five meters high, with a flat transition area in the middle. Riders use the momentum they gain riding up and down the 85-degree pitched snow banks to leap above the rim or lip of the pipe and perform a routine of acrobatic tricks.
  • A finish line marks the end of the run, usually about 100m to 120m from the start.


  • The 12 women and 12 men who receive the top scores in the qualifying runs proceed to the final. The finalists participate in two runs, and the rider who posts the highest one-run score wins the event. The tow runs are not combined, so even if a rider wipes out and has a horrible opening routine, he or she still has a shot at claiming gold with a perfect second routine.


  • Five judges score each halfpipe run. Riders receive scores or 0.1 to 10.0 marked in tenths. For overall impression, which includes standard airs (non-rotation maneuvers), rotation and amplitude (the height of the tricks)

Standard airs

  • Standard airs are tricks performed without rotation. These include basic maneuvers like frontside and backside airs, improvised lip tricks and hand plants with less than 360-degree rotation.
  • Top marks are scored by riders who display optimum line up the halfpipe wall, strong balance and the proper technique for the attempted trick.
  • Snowboarders toss variables into standard airs to increase difficulty and improve their scores. One common move to boost the technical complexity of a maneuver is a grab, in which the rider takes hold of a snowboard edge with one or both hands. Grabbing a quick board touch) and executed in a seamless motion.
  • Grabs are also used to the same effect in rotation tricks.

Rotation tricks

  • Spins (horizontal rotation), flips (vertical rotations) and twists are some of the most common halfpipe maneuvers. Judges look at variety, difficulty and execution when evaluating rotation tricks of 360 degrees or more.
  • Riders whose routine is spiced with a variety of rotation tricks are more likely to impress the judges. Variations, like grabs or a straightened leg, increase difficulty and can boost marks if cleanly executed.
  • But degree of difficulty and busting spectacular moves is not everything. Riders see marks deducted when they lose control, demonstrate poor balance, leap from the pipe too early, over-rotate or fall.

Overall impression

  • The overall impression judges evaluate the complete package: run composition, trick execution, degree of difficulty and how well the rider uses the pipe.
  • Execution is the stability, fluidity and control of a rider's tricks. For composition, judges look at sequence and how a run is put together, ensuring a mixture of different tricks that are well-executed and difficult. Run sequence is another important variable because some tricks are more difficult to perform in succession than if they were split up into different phases of a routine.
  • Judges may deduct points for any of the following infractions:
    • Judges may deduct points for any of the following infractions:
    • Unstable body, flat landings, missed airs and speed checks: 0.1-0.4 points
    • Dragging the hand or using it for stability: 0.5-0.9 points
    • Minor falls or body contact with snow: 1.0-1.5 points
    • Complete falls: 1.6-1.9 points
    • Complete stop: 2.0 points.

Speed equals big air

  • Increasing and maintaining speed in halfpipe is vital. The faster riders go, the higher they're able to get over the halfpipe, which adds to amplitude marks and allows them to jam more elements into their tricks and increase their spin difficulty.
  • Halfpipe riders use a technique called pumping in the flat transition area between the two pipe walls to maximize their speed. They repeatedly press down hard on their legs, driving their knees, hips and arms forward.
  • Riders also hope to find the optimum line in halfpipe. The right line up the walls and through the whole halfpipe varies depending on the type of trick the snowboarder is going to perform.


  • As in most winter sports, weather plays a role in halfpipe course conditions. Not surprisingly, there's no consensus among the always individualistic snowboarders on what constitutes ideal pipe conditions. Much of it is personal preference. However, there are some weather trends that can impact the venue in consistent ways.
  • Icy conditions tend to allow riders to pick up more speed, which in turn can translate into higher airs. Some boarders like a firm, icy pipe, while others tend to get going too fast on ice and lose some control on their takeoffs and landings.
  • Too much snow can also be a letdown, making it difficult for riders to get the speed and amplitude required to pull show-stopping tricks.

Parallel Giant Slalom

  • The parallel slalom is a lot like a drag race. Two riders tear down side-by-side courses on alpine snowboards, weaving through a series of gates in a head-to-head battle. The event from the sidelines.
  • The parallel giant slalom (PGS) made its Olympic debut in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, replacing the individually contested giant slalom (GS), which made its debut as one of two snowboarding events at the 1998 Nagano Games.
  • It would seem that the replacement of GS with PGS was due to GPS being a more TV-friendly event-it's always more exciting to see two athletes racing head-to-head to a frantic finish rather than athletes racing individually against the clock.
  • PGS demands that a rider concentrate on his or her own performance while remaining aware of on opponent's progress. Pulling off a series of rhythmic carving turns at high speeds is essential, but other variables come to the fore in GPS-familiarity with the competition, endurance and a little luck.

Endurance test

  • PGS racers compete in more runs than in any other Winter Olympic event. The medal-winning riders compete in nine heats throughout the day before climbing the podium. Consistency is essential for riders hoping to progress in PGS competitions.

Head games and knowing the opponent

  • Elite PGS racers scout their competition, keeping track of their opponents' strengths and weaknesses with the hope of exploiting any advantage come race time. Racers need to simultaneously push themselves and their competitors.
  • While it's important to be familiar with the competition, it's more important for riders to know themselves.
  • "you have to be able to feel the speed, feel your carve and feel what you're doing before you get flustered by someone being a half a gate or whole gate in front of you. You have to know how you've been doing. If in one course you know you've had a really good first couple of gates and he might be half a gate ahead of you, that means he's been pushing his limits a little too far, and chances are good he'll blow out," says 2006 hopeful Jasey-Jay Anderson.
  • Once racers have their racing style down and know their and limitations and proper pacing, they can start playing the mental game of PGS.
  • "It depends who the race is with because I know a lot of the athletes out there are really headstrong, and that's where you have to really just beat them by a little bit," says Anderson, "Usually if you have them by a lot, it won't mean a thing, and it'll play more on you more than it will on them. With other people, it's the opposite, if you beat them by a lot in the first run, in the second run they're only going to make three gates and blow out."


  • The Alpine snowboards used in PGS are designed to handle high speeds and crisp carving turns. They are longer, stiffer and narrower than freestyle boards, helping increase the stability and speed of the ride. Alpine racers use a plate binding system with hard boots for immediate response to movement and effective turning.
  • PGS riders wear skin-tight aerodynamic suits to reduce wind resistance, unlike the looser-fitting freestyle board wear. They also protect their lower body with hard shin guards that run from the top of their boots to just over their kneecaps. The extra protection is essential since racers' shins and knees make frequent contact with course gates as they wind down the course.

The course

  • The two PGS courses are built to be as similar as possible to avoid giving an advantage to either racer. The number of gates varies depending on the length of the course. The vertical drop must be between 120 meters and 200m. The number of turns is decided based on 11 to 15 per cent of the vertical drop in meters. The recommended distance between gates is 20m-25m.


  • The event begins with all competitors taking a run through the course individually in a timed qualifying run. The 16 competitors with the fastest times advance to the head-to-heat portion of the competition and are seeded first through 16th.
  • There are two races in each of the heat-to-heat rounds. The two riders race beside each other on parallel courses in the opening heat before switching sides of the course for a second rim a racer advances to the next round by winning both heats or by having the lowest combined time if the riders split the two heats.
  • Things aren't so cut and dry if riders crash or are disqualified. Riders who fail to finish or are disqualified in the opening heat are given their opponent's time plus four per cent of the top qualifying time.
  • When racers are disqualified or do not finishes the second run, their opponent wins provide that racer finishes the second run, regardless of the first-run outcome. In the event both riders crash in the second heat, the racer who passed through the most gates moves on in the competition.
  • Each of the winners advances to the four quarterfinals, and the quarterfinal winners move on to the semis. The semifinal victors advance to the gold medal final, and the runners-up race for the bronze