Big mountain freeriding is one of the most difficult sports to judge. Besides the diversity of lines that one venue might offer, judges must consider the way the competitor rides the line, the tricks thrown, and the rider's own personal style, plus there's the way the venue's snow conditions might change from the first competitor to the last. At times, it's not a matter of comparing apples to oranges, but apples to orangutans.
While the Freeskiing World Tour, Freeride World Tour and snowboarding's Masters Tour had their own judging standards and processes that have evolved over the years, the recent merger of the three tours has brought a need for a new, hybrid system for the coming years.
Which is why, last weekend, representatives and athletes from both world tours met in Squaw Valley, Calif., to discuss a new judging system. The goal was to synthesize the advantages of each tour, without making the final product overly complicated or time consuming.
The final product had to be accurate, efficient, and useful across different levels of the sport (juniors, qualifiers, and the world tour), as well as being simple and concise in order to provide feedback to aspiring riders.
"We had three different judging systems and we had to make sure to not come up with a beast that is not usable," says Berti Denervaud, snowboarding head judge of the Freeride World Tour. "Most importantly, [we wanted a system] that's not going to oblige riders to change the way they were riding in order to fit the new system."
The end result, determined after several days worth of meetings and discussions over Labor Day weekend, is called the Global Freeride Judging System. It's a system that borrows from the overall impression formula used on the Freeride World Tour, the line and categorical scoring of the Freeskiing World Tour, and the straightforward feedback of the Masters Tour.
While the final system is still being tweaked, the end result is set to meet the versatility requirements of multiple tours, the simplicity requirements of officials who may have less than a minute to judge, and the accuracy and feedback needed by the athletes.
"The more we broke the separate judging formats, the clearer it became that we were not that far off in the beginning," says Freeskiing World Tour Director of Competition Bryan Barlow. "We were all trying to accomplish the same thing, which is to reward the best, most impressive riding from the judges' point of view on the given venue and day."