Moguls skiing: Everything you wanted to know and more

Moguls often has fans of the Olympic Winter Games scratching their heads. How did this intriguing freestyle skiing event come into being, what are the rules, and why is Mikaël Kingsbury so good at it?

By Alison Ratcliffe
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Of all the mindboggling events that make up the discipline of freestyle skiing at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, moguls is perhaps the quirkiest. You might know that Mikaël Kingsbury is the moguls king, but how is the event judged? What are the rules, and how does the scoring work?

And most of all, why?

This will be more obvious to the skiers out there. Moguls form naturally on ski slopes as skiers turn, pushing snow to one side. Other skiers tend to follow the same tracks, adding to these piles of snow.

According to dictionary.com, the word ‘moguls’ originates from a 1960s German dialect word, mugel, or small hill.

In the 1970s era of ‘hotdogging’, when skiers began to bend tradition and freestyle was born, mogul races were harum-scarum races over bumps.

“You have to understand that this sport is called freestyle and practised by people who have free minds,” said Edgar Grospiron, who won the first-ever gold medal in men’s moguls when the sport made its Olympic debut at Albertville 1992.

“It was invented by some crazy people who don’t fit in. They like rules, but they like playing with them and going beyond them.”

Edgar Grospiron of France does the moguls during the Olympic Games in Albertville, France
Picture by Getty/Rick Stewart/Allsport

These days, moguls are fashioned first using a snowcat plough, then finished by hand. And Olympic mogul skiing has been refined.

Competitors take under 30 seconds to complete a course on a slope of around 28 degrees, and approximately 235m long, with the moguls spaced around 3.5m apart. There are air bumps at the top and bottom of the course, from which the competitors perform acrobatic jumps.

Scoring is 60 per cent based on mogul turn technique, 20 per cent on speed, and 20 per cent on the quality of the jumps.

“When you watch a run and you are like, ‘Wow, it was really energetic and precise and clean, it didn’t seem like many movements,’ I would say that’s really something that people should look for,” Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe told olympic.ca.

“When they land, how does it look? Does it seem really flawless and balanced on the two feet and no movement?”

“It’s not just one jump and then you’ve got the landing,” said Leonie Gerken Schofield of Team GB.

“After landing you've got 40 bumps, so you want to land your trick.

Mogul skiers often train on ramps set up over lakes.

“Once we've got the hang of it on the trampoline, we then put it onto the water ramp and then we try to find a good condition day where it's powder snow,” said Gerken Schofield.

“And then, when we are really comfortable with them, we'll then put them into a moguls run.”

Skiers employ trampolines to practise their moguls technique too, using exercises called Brassards, named after Canadian moguls legend Jean-Luc Brassard.

Watch how American Olympian Bradley Wilson, below, holds his torso still in the moguls position while he works those knees and absorbs the bounce.

READ MORE: Top things to know about Mikael Kingsbury

Talking of knees, the moguls might have you empathetically clutching your patellas. But in fact, the lower back takes most of the stress. Mogul skiers therefore spend a lot of time working on core strength.

Want to know more about all the jump jargon? Check out this handy list courtesy of Freestyle Canada.

At Beijing 2022, Australian Jakara Anthony,who finished top in first-round qualifying on Thursday, hopes to show off her cork 720 mute, a full flip with two rotations and a mid-air ski grab.

“In the women’s field, in competition right now, I am the only person (who performs it),” she said.

“There are some other girls that I’ve seen do it in training, but not competed it yet. And in the men’s field there’s a couple of men who do it as well.”

As for the men’s competition, Canadian Kingsbury said: “There is a cork 1080 with a truck driver mute that I’ve been working on.” 

That’s three rotations while grabbing the opposite ski by the tip. A cork is a spin or flip between the vertical and horizontal axes.

“Not many people have done that trick on a mogul course,” said Kingsbury.

“There's also the double that I can do, but the FIS doesn’t allow that yet. But I've been working on a double cork ten. 

“The way that Johnny Moseley brought the Cork 720, I think there is a way for me to bring that trick.”

Canadians are the mogul maestros, having won six gold medals.

Kingsbury won one of those and is widely seen as the men’s all-time great, with nine overall World Cup titles and the record for most World Cup moguls victories.

How does he do it?

“If you like cooking cakes, and you do them a lot, at some point you’re going to maybe cook the best cake in the world.

“I’m pretty on it on every single part of the recipe.”

When to watch moguls skiing at Beijing 2022

The men’s moguls qualification continues at 18:00 local time (02:00 PST) on Saturday 5 February. The finals take place later the same day from 19:30 (03:30 PST).

The women’s qualification continues on Sunday 6 February at 18:00 (02:00 PST). The finals are from 19:30 (03:30 PST) the same day.

Keep up with all the action in our Live Blog updates throughout Beijing 2022, here.

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