As January rolls around, it can mean only one thing; snow season is here. With this brings the biggest event in freestyle ski and snowboarding, the Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships. Held this year in Krienschberg, Austria, 2015 marks the first year where competitions of freestyle ski and snowboard will be run alongside each other.
Freestyle, which features the events of slope-style, halfpipe, moguls and cross among others, encompasses contests ranging from speed, big air to trick techniques. The World Championship marks the most prestigious contests in the sport, and the calibre of competitors look to be higher than ever, with competitors from over 45 nations, as well as over 21 medal winners of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Big names to keep an eye on include mogul skier gold medalist Justine Dufour-Lapointe, a young Canadian who, along with her sisters, dominated the moguls event in Sochi, and Finnish star snowboarder Roope Tonteri, who will be defending the titles for both slope-style and big arms snowboarding which he won in Stoneham in 2013.
As usual, the championship roster looks set to be dominated by the winter sport nations of Canada, Finland, Switzerland and the United States. Nevertheless, Team GB will pin their hopes on Aimee Fuller and Billy Morgan as they look to build on GB’s success in snowboard slope-style in Sochi. The championship also marks the first major competition for 17-year old Molly Summerhayes, a halfpipe skier.
This year, the FIS (Federation International de Ski) have attempted to take coverage of the championship to a truly global scale. All events of the competition will be available to stream live from their respective YouTube channels to connect with a much wider viewership than offered by a conventional television package.
This is resoundingly good news for British winter sports, as ski and snowboard sports in the UK have a history of being sidelined. The BBCís long-running Ski Sunday show aside, winter sports are typically restricted to obscure sports channels listed only in the premium subscription services of Sky and Virgin Media, making it difficult for a mass audience to engage. However, through changing viewer demographics and the rise of the Internet, the FIS has the potential to tap into a new market of curious parties who may not yet have the commitment to pay a premium television fee and hopefully generate greater interest in the sport.