In Halfpipe and Slopestyle, Freeskiing Challenges Snowboarding
David Wise may be the best halfpipe skier in the world. He is a favorite to win a gold medal in the event’s debut in Sochi, Russia, where it will be compared with the better-known version performed by snowboarders like Shaun White.
Wise can explain the obvious and hidden differences between the two halfpipe disciplines — one on one plank, the other on two. He can speak about the physics involved in skiing backward while launching oneself off the edge of a 22-foot wall of ice, rotating like a gyroscope and landing in the ideal position for the next trick.
What he cannot do is fully explain why he carries poles.
“They’re kind of a fossil from early skiing days, really,” Wise said. “I still ski with poles because I skied with them my whole life, and it feels awkward not to. But they’re not serving, really, any purpose other than looking cool in the air.”
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The snowboard halfpipe has been a popular event since its debut at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. White helped launch it into a glamorous, do-not-miss prime-time event, winning the men’s gold medal in the past two Games and going to Sochi as the favorite again.