for those in the snow

The soap opera of women’s skiing

Ashley Battersby

Ashley Battersby at X Games Aspen 2013: photo credit AP

Slopestyle skier Ashley Battersby lay tangled in the side fence at the X Games, her knee clearly in distress.  The Chicago born skier was sitting in third place with an almost guaranteed podium at the Aspen X Games Slopestyle Event on her twenty fifth birthday. Surely, a bittersweet birthday present.

It took forty five minutes to clear the course after Ashley was recovered by ski patrol before the last run of the entire event. Trouble was, the last run of the competition was Kaya Turski’s, the Montreal athlete who had won gold in this X Games event at both Tignes and Aspen for the previous three years in a row but had failed to score above fifty, crashing in her first two runs in the 2013 competition.

Who said women’s snowsports are not exciting? One run left. Turski knew if she smashed it and took first, second or third she would knock off the birthday girl who had lain in an injured heap moments before. But wait, there’s more.

The back story to the Aspen X Games competition was not known by every spectator but it made for tension filled viewing by those in the know.

Australian slopestyle skier and FIS slopestyle world champion at the time, Anna Segal, was the first female to win gold at X Games slopestyle when it was introduced in 2008. She went on to win a silver in Tignes and a bronze in Aspen in years ahead.

Coming off the back of a bronze medal at Copper Mountain a week earlier, Anna was in a good place to podium at the X Games 2013. A fall in training meant mild concussion and as a member of the Olympic Winter  Institute she was ordered to get a pass from the team doctor to compete. She failed the concussion test and the team doctor didn’t give her a pass.

Her Kiwi friend and slopestyle colleague, nineteen year old Rose Battersby (no relation to Ashley) was given Anna’s invitational spot at the X Games instead. A fantastic opportunity for a burgeoning slopestyler or so she thought.

Rose took a fall on her training run and broke her back in full view of the tight knit female slopestyle community (she has since had surgery and will make a full recovery).

broken-neck-at-winter-x-games-2013-aspen

Rose Battersby attended to on course

With Rose down prior to the first official competition run and no one knowing how bad her back injury was or if she could walk again let alone ski, then Kaya not hitting the mark and now Ashley down, the final run of the competition was bound to be nerve wracking.

Kaya needed to beat 92.33, scored by seventeen year old Norwegian Tiril Sjastad Christiansen who, should she win, would become the youngest female to win an X Games medal.

It was all down to one run, delayed for forty five minutes. Sadly during this time ESPN chose to broadcast the men’s snow mobile competition instead.

Kaya managed a rodeo 540, switch 720 and a switch cord 540 to score 90 points and a second place podium, knocking limping birthday girl Ashley off the podium and giving Norway gold.

Tiril

Norway’s  Tiril Sjastad Christiansen and her gold medal

Back home in Australia I was unable to live stream the event and literally followed Twitter, Facebook and the X Games live scoring online while interacting with friends watching it in the USA on Skype.

Let’s just say it was intense, everything that an elites sporting event should be – a story that involved shattered dreams, global firsts, champions in distress and elation, friendships versus competition and brilliant skiing. And it was all presented by the women.

I’ve heard the arguments of women not being as ‘visually spectacular’ as the men but when you understand what a woman’s body and a man’s body can do in the halfpipe or on the slopestyle course then these girls are just as spectacular as the blokes. They risk their lives, which are just as valuable, the same way the men do. At least the X Games understand this, offering equal prize money to men and women.

I certainly know where I’m going to be come the Winter Olympics, slopeside with the slopestyle girls, they rock.

Happy International Women’s Day to all the rocking skiers and boarders of the world. Every day is women’s day.

Want to see Tiril Sjastad’s winning run? Click here.

Do you think women’s snowsports should be given a bigger broadcast go?

6 Responses to “The soap opera of women’s skiing”

  1. Pete

    “Do you think women’s snowsports should be given a bigger broadcast go?”

    Honestly, whilst they no doubt deserve encouragement awards for their efforts, broadcast television is a visual spectacle, and compared to the men’s event, the women aren’t visually spectacular.

    Reply
  2. DK

    How could you justify equal prize money when the women perform at a significantly lower level. It’s not even close.

    I am all for equality when justified, but women’s ski halfpipe and slopestyle have a massive gap in skill, air, tricks etc.. then the men..

    That winning run you showed had no inverts, and the best trick was a 900 from memory. Boys under 14 in any terrain park in the world could out perform that run.

    The injuries you talk about occur because the women can’t handle the facilities built for men.

    I read last year that the women would prefer features that are more at there ability level in events, which is yet another reason why prize money should not be equal.

    Reply
  3. Pete

    “I’ve heard the arguments of women not being as ‘visually spectacular’ as the men but when you understand what a woman’s body and a man’s body can do in the halfpipe or on the slopestyle course then these girls are just as spectacular as the blokes. They risk their lives, which are just as valuable, the same way the men do. At least the X Games understand this, offering equal prize money to men and women.”

    Ummm, did you add this line after I made my comment, or did I just completely miss it initially. Let me reiterate that my tone is completely respectful and that my intention here is to have an open and adult conversation (as opposed to trolling, if that is still even a thing).

    Regarding the limitations of the body, why are female gymnasts or female divers as interesting to watch as their male counterparts? Yet male and female skiers are literally worlds apart.

    Regarding equal prize money, it isn’t about “the X Games understanding this” but more about the X Games meeting the sanctioning requirements of the freeski governing body to acquire its platinum world tour status. If the X Games was so “understanding” it wouldn’t have dropped skier cross this year – another topic I believe you were vocal about somewhere on social media. The X Games is a business, like every event. Furthermore the X Games is an anomaly in that it is the one of the only businesses that can afford to meet the equal prize purse through it’s successful business model in a tough industry, and for that, it should be praised.

    Reply
    • oakesash

      Hi Peter, I have updated the post as I felt I hadn’t addressed the women vs men as a broadcast event issue. I think the answer to female divers is that they use the same diving tower as the men, slopestyle courses for women tend to be different to men and their bodies as I understand it are not able to do the same tricks. I guess that’s why women don’t do the gymnast rings that the men do but they both do the vault and the bars set at the same dimensions. It is a topic I am intrigued by. Viewers want spectacular, but throwing your body off any major jump to me is spectacular, it’s just that everyone keeps upping the ante. Thoughts?

      Reply
  4. GJHG

    My dissenting comment as the father of a competitive slopestyle girl.

    Women have been fighting for years to run the same courses as men – the days of a girl specific course are buried. Since doing the big courses the rate of progression of tricks in women’s events has accelerated amazingly. Watch this space.

    Young boys doing tricks better than girls. Maybe on the intermediate courses they seem to be doing big spins. Step up a notch to the big jumps. I see women doing Mile High and Style Wars, but no kids. (Luke Staveley might this year).

    Watching mens events is now almost bewildering. I certainly find it difficult to count the spins and corks. It is all a blur. A lot of the women’s events actually seem more elegant and watchable. Slopestyle is not just about tricks – it is also about the ski/snowboard style, with judges specifically to look at this. With respect to style, the girls have it in spades.

    Notwithstanding this, the sled comp is pretty exciting. They have style, but I’m not seeing too many 900s or triple corks.

    Reply

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