Most freeskiing athletes these days specialize in one discipline: They are either slopestyle skiers, halfpipe skiers or big-mountain skiers. But there are a small handful of athletes who manage to take on more than one discipline -- and do it well. This week at Winter X Games Tignes in France, Devin Logan, Gus Kenworthy, Joss Christensen and Jossi Wells will be competing in both Ski Slopestyle and Ski SuperPipe. But how do they juggle it all? We sat down with Kenworthy, Christensen and Logan to find out.
Why do you think so few athletes compete in multiple disciplines? Why did you start competing in multiple areas?
Kenworthy: I started competing in both disciplines because when I used to have to register for events online, the slopestyle discipline would fill up almost instantaneously and the only way to get into the competition would be to register for both slope and pipe as a package. That kind of forced me to dabble in the pipe a little bit, and I actually started liking it. I don't really understand why most kids don't try and ski multiple disciplines. I think that a big reason, though, is just that nobody wants to risk hurting themselves by training or competing in an event that isn't their main focus.
Christensen: At contests, competing in all can be really hectic, with little time in between to rest. I grew up competing it all so I have been trying to keep up with it as best as possible.
Logan: I started competing in USSA events when I was younger and there was always halfpipe and slopestyle events grouped together, so my coaches and parents always pushed me to do both events. I just ended up sticking with both because snowboarding halfpipe was in the Olympics and I knew skiing was next and I loved skiing the park as well. I think so few athletes compete in both disciplines because it is hard to balance training and competing. It's a lot of mental and physical exhaustion at the end of the day. It's also very difficult to perform well in both at the level of skiing we are at today.
Is it hard to manage your time training for both pipe and slope, and during a contest does the stacked scheduling of events affect you?
Kenworthy: Competition schedules rarely cater to multidiscipline athletes, and time management can sometimes be one of the most stressful parts of an event. Most of the time practice for slope and pipe coincide with each other and you have to divide your time between both. Other times pipe practice will take place during a slope event or vice versa and you have to miss practice and have to go into an event feeling unprepared, which is pretty frustrating.
Logan: It is hard to manage training schedules during a contest. You find that there are some overlapped practice times in the week or you just finish up one event and run straight into the next one. For me, I have to plan out what practices I am doing first, which I should focus on more, and in the end try not to burn myself out even before the competition starts.
Would you say you have a disadvantage or an advantage compared to an athlete who only trains and competes in one discipline?
Kenworthy: From a sponsors' standpoint, having an athlete who can compete in televised events, make it on podiums and fulfill media obligations in multiple disciplines opens up a lot of doors. It gives a company the ability to brand one skier that does what two or more skiers normally do. The downside, as mentioned before, is the stacked-up training schedules and limited amount of rest during events and increased chance of injuries.
Christensen: I feel that it could go both ways for me; being able to ski halfpipe can really help with unusual slope course designs. But it can be a disadvantage when it comes to keeping up with the hardest tricks for both. You may spend a long time learning a new trick for pipe and then realize you need to step it up for slope before the next contest.
Do you have an event that is more of a priority than the other?
Kenworthy: At this point, I would say that I put a lot more focus on slopestyle. Until recently I only skied halfpipe during events and didn't train it or think about it much outside of competing. I still prefer slopestyle to pipe and I have a lot more fun jumping and shredding rails than I do anything else, but this year I've started to enjoy pipe more than I used to. If I did have to make the call to focus only on one event leading up to the Olympics, the hardest thing for me would be deciding which discipline to choose.
Christensen: I usually train and ski more slopestyle than halfpipe. Sometimes it's really hard for me to motivate myself to get out in the halfpipe, but when I do I usually have a lot of fun. I do prefer slope over pipe, but it's a close match.
Logan: When I go to an event I do put some more focus in the slopestyle practice because every course is different. For halfpipe it is the same 22-foot walls and it only takes one or two runs to get used to halfpipe. I really enjoy both events and I feel I am pretty equal in both.