Narrowing down the field | VailDaily.com

Narrowing down the field

Richard Chittick

Narrowing down 180 competitors in Friday’s Vans Triple Crown Slope Style qualifiers to the available slots for 25 men and 12 women may seem like a daunting job, but to the six judges that get it done, it’s all in a day’s work.

The team of judges are all certified professionals working for the International Judges Commission (IJC), an independent freestyle snowboard competition judging organization formed after the 1998 Olympic games in Nagano.

It was initially started by Greg Johnson, who has been judging freestyle snowboard competitions for 18 years.

“Basically, we started it to give the riders and judges more voice in how the judging goes,” Johnson said.

Before IJC, Johnson worked for the broader International Federation of Skiing (FIS), which handles the officiating of many competitions, whether skiing or snowboarding.

Johnson, however, felt that freestyle snowboarding had unique concerns, so he built his own organization complete with its own certification process.

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According to Jason Saltzman, who is part of the crew at this weekend’s event, every judge is tested every year as part of a series of symposiums held throughout the world.

“We all have to be tested and professionally certified,” he said.

Johnson said that since IJC works entirely within freestyle snowboarding, the organization can grow with the sport. The organization occasionally acts as a consultant for freestyle motocross and skiing events.

“It adds consistency to the sport,” he said. “We take input from pro riders at contests and at the judges clinics.”

By staying creative in the judging, the IJC allows for the riders to get more creative, Johnson said.

How the judging works

In the Slope Style qualifiers, the six-member crew is divided in two, and the two separate teams share the judging of the competitors.

As competitors hit the course, the teams alternate with the heats, so that each team has more time to rate the particular competitor it is watching.

Each trick by each competitor is written down by each judge, which allows the judging team to compare the first rider with the last rider and every competitor in between. Points are only established after every competitor has finished a run.

The system allows for subtle variances in tricks, such as two competitors who throw almost identical 540s, except one adds a grab.

In today’s slopestyle finals, two extra features will be added to the lower part of the course. The judging team will be divided into a four-person team for the upper part of the course and a two-person team for the lower part.

For the superpipe competition, the three-person teams once again take turns judging heats during today’s preliminary runs today and then join together as a single team for Sunday’s finals.

“Occasionally we get someone who thinks they rode better than they actually did,” Saltzman said. “But most of the riders know us, and we know what they can do, so they can’t say much.”

Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at rchittick@summitdaily.com.