Yesterday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board approved the addition of ski and snowboard slopestyle events at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The announcement came yesterday from the 123rd IOC Session in Durban, South Africa, and follows an April announcement that ski halfpipe will also be a medal event in Sochi.
"Slopestyle is a very popular sport, and this is growing very fast," IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a press conference yesterday. "You have young, dedicated, spectacular athletes. Definitely, I believe it has the same future as the beginning of snowboarding in Nagano in 1998. You see what has happened in between."
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The announcement is cause for celebration here in Colorado, even though Sochi is halfway around the world: Earlier this year, Copper Mountain renewed its contract to host the first event of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association's USSA Grand Prix each December for at least another five years, which means Colorado will be the first stop for any U.S. athlete attempting to qualify in any of the freestyle snowboarding or freeskiing events, beginning in December 2013. For many young athletes, that Olympic journey could start even sooner, and also at Copper Mountain: The resort also recently renewed its contract to host the USSA Amateur Nationals for at least another five years.
Copper Mountain seems to have anticipated the IOC decision to include the slopestyle events: In April, the Woodward at Copper action sports camp announced that the resort had hired Jason George as its new terrain-park manager. George had previously been responsible for Keystone's award-winning A51 Terrain Park, and getting him in place at Copper Mountain means he'll now help shape the direction of Olympic snowboarding and freeskiing.
In an April statement after hiring George for the 2011/2012 season, Woodward at Copper director Ben Brown wrote, "This move continues to show Copper's commitment to terrain parks/pipes and Woodward at Copper, and it shows that this is the place for every level of shredder to progress, from Olympic hopefuls to local rippers."