Men's snowboard superpipe may be the marquee event of the Winter X Games, and the superpipe is getting popular for skiers too. But for all the talk about how extreme the X Games are, I'm struck by how conventional the event really is. Unlike the racing events, and like gymnastics and (gasp!) figure skating, superpipe is a judged event. The participants wait at the bottom of the run (holding up their sponsors' logos for the cameras, just like the alpine racers do) for their scores to come up on the big screen, while the announcers speculate on the effect that dragging a knuckle on the landing between jumps will have on the score.
Listening to the ESPN announcers and the Aspen crowd (which booed several of the scores) on TV last night, it seemed to me the Winter X Games really needs to do a better job explaining what the judges are looking for. Is it "amplitude" or technical style, or some combination? Is it really all about busting a 1080 at the top of the pipe, or does stringing together a bunch of good tricks matter? Who are the judges and how are the scores calculated?
Superpipe is really turning into a major event, and unfortunately that means it's only a matter of time before there is a huge, public problem with the judging. Organizers really should do a better job with transparency on the judging next time around.