This weekend, female skiers and snowboarders were included in Aspen’s X Games Big Air for the first time. Aspen Public Radio’s Alycin Bektesh spoke with the athletes about breaking a glass ceiling on the snow.
The Big Air course is 300 feet long, made up of a jump that is 80 feet wide. Athletes send themselves off a 15 foot launch ramp and then spin and flip their way to the 35 degree landing slope.
Men have been participating in Aspen’s X Games Big Air competitions for nearly a decade, but women have not been included in the sport, or had the same opportunities to progress through high level competition, until this year. Many of the women who have been making a name for themselves in slopestyle events are part of the introductory class of female big air competitors, including Sochi Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson.
“It’s actually a really old event, but unfortunately this is the beginning of women’s Big Air,” said Anderson. “There hasn’t been a lot of love in that in the last five years. So I think it will be really good to help push the sport.”
For the inaugural Aspen events, 16 women were included, eight skiers and eight snowboarders took turns dropping into the course as many times as they could in 25 minutes. The one with the highest combined scores awarded from the judges wins, which means anything can happen up to the very last run. In the snowboard Big Air event on Thursday night, it did.
Showing just how new this sport is, 16-year-old Hailey Langland came from last place to win the gold with a trick she had practiced one time.
“Well I was trying to do a Cab Nine and I went a little short on the jump so I just figured I would go a bit faster and just spin a bit faster and it just clicked and went right to 10, and it’s insane,” said Langland.
To translate, before Langland was able to master rotating herself through the air two and a half times, she accidentally went a full three turns. It’s only now that women are competing in Big Air events that any of us, including the athletes, are learning what they are able to do.
X Games vice president Tim Reed said there was “no specific reason” the women’s Big Air events were excluded from the program up until now. But, as other high-profile competitions have included the event, he said the girls were more adamant about requesting it. He called the debut year “amazing and awesome.”
Not only was women’s Big Air included in the X Games this year, it will also debut as an Olympic sport in 2018, in Korea. Anderson said it’s been a long time coming for the girls to get their shot at Big Air, but for her and the other females sending it this weekend, it’s an honor to be the ones breaking the barrier.
“Our mothers when they were younger, they weren't really able to do as many sports because it just wasn't as accepted. It’s so cool now that we are a new, younger generation that is getting equal rights and getting to compete with the guys and making equal money so it’s really cool to be a part of the movement,” said Anderson.