Aussie Aerial’s star Danielle Scott has the lowdown on some of the best and toughest Freestyle World Cup Tour venues.
Beijing to Belarus, Sochi to Sierra Nevada. Some you would definitely want to go ski recreationally, some you would definitely avoid..
The World Cup Tour can be a mix of new and exciting locations, old favourites and perhaps locations that previously left a bad taste in mouths! Winter sports across the board will see each venue have a different set up in some way shape or form. It may appear that the sites or jumps look the same, but there is always an adjustment period for the athletes when they change locations. Weather and event arrangements can affect how many days of training there is pre-competition, but usually it’s three to four days with home nations required to rebuild a site if they have previously used it. Varying jump dimensions, slope degree, type of snow and even angle of the sun are some of the biggest factors that come to my mind when figuring out a new site. Some sites you may not feel comfortable with until competition day and some sites you may never feel adjusted. The job still has to get done and this is where experience can be your friend.
Having spent eight years on the World Cup Tour, my experience of locations and venues is pretty broad. The powerhouse nations are the nations that regularly hold events. In Aerial Skiing that consists of China, USA, Russia, and Belarus. Those countries are guaranteed tour stops each year.
Places as diverse as Canada, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Switzerland fall on and off the schedule due to things like money, team success, television rights, etc. And Australia. Our last World Cup event for Aerial Skiing was back in 2003 in Mt Buller. We lost the television rights and sadly it hasn’t happened since.
The most spectacular venue I have competed at is the Beijing Bird’s Nest. This is one of the locations where our aerial hill and jumps are all built on scaffolding. We take a lift up the back of the enormous structure and ski into the jumps from the rooftop of the stadium. Snow is trucked in and the event has an atmosphere like no other. You would think there would be no wind in a stadium but sneakily enough, there is, and that can make getting accurate speeds for each jump quite tricky.
The coldest place I’ve experienced in competition is in Northern China, where temperatures fell below -38 degrees Celsius.
Although this sounds quite brutal, Lake Placid, New York has a type of cold that bites through to your bones!
The best snow I’ve had on tour would have to have been in Sochi, Russia. This was the pre-Olympic year at the test event and they closed the mountain to simulate the upcoming Olympics. It snowed all week and although training for the event was the priority, we did make the most of having the mountain to ourselves with all the freshly powdered terrain. Sochi is more commonly known for a warmer winter climate, but hit the conditions at the right time and you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.
My favourite location is where the 2017 World Championships were held in Sierra Nevada, Spain. This event was particularly tricky due to warmer conditions, but the mountain left an incredible memory in my mind. Storms brought sands from the Sahara Desert over the mountain and gave the snow a vividly pink tinge. When the sun sets, the mountain tops and snow become a magical setting with nothing like I’ve ever seen before. Not to mention the food, people, spring skiing vibes and leaving with the best performance of my career to top it off!
The biggest crowd is always in Deer Valley, USA. This place is a second home to me and the rich history of the town, fabulous snow and just hands down awesome place to visit makes this World Cup one of the favourite stops on the tour for many. Unfortunately, Deer Valley is a skier only resort but with incredible resorts all around Salt Lake City, you won’t be disappointed as visiting this event to spectate is a must.
The place I would never have travelled to unless there was an event is Minsk, Belarus. Aerial Skiing is highly valued, with athletes having claimed gold in the last three Olympics. We compete at an Olympic training venue where a lot of Nordic and Cross-Country events are held. There is no downhill skiing as such, but the people and the city have a fascinating culture on offer.
Lastly, my least favourite location (but still an incredible place to ski!) would be Kreischberg, Austria. There’s a bit of a sour taste in my mouth after placing 5th at the World Championships when I had the podium in my sights. It is a unique and culturally rich country that I’d love to ski again, but perhaps next time it’s in holiday mode and not competition mode!