“Six down, one to go. Last stop… China!” That was the trending social update of pretty much every top Slopestyle and Halfpipe rider yesterday, as they packed their boardbags and headed for Denver International Airport.
Yes, China. From March 9 to 16, the world’s top freestyle snowboarders will battle it out one more time this winter, at the 2016 World Championships of Snowboarding in Yabuli, China. Never heard of it? Here’s what you need to know...
1. This is China’s biggest winter sports contest yet
And it will stay that way until 2022, when Beijing will host the Winter Olympics. Like the Olympics, the World Championships of Snowboarding (WCS) is held every four years: the last one was held in Oslo, Norway, in 2012. And, unlike the Olympics, the WCS is sanctioned by the World Snowboard Tour (WST), formally known as the TTR, not the FIS. Confused yet? Well, there’s nothing confusing about the prize money of USD500,000. Damn!
Have a first look at the WCS Yabuli 2016 Slopestyle course:
2. The Slopestyle course looks great
Judging by the previews at wcs2016yabuli.com, the Slopestyle course really shakes up the standard format. Instead of starting with rails and ending with jumps, Yabuli will start with three kickers of 19m, 22m and 25m, leading into a feature-loaded jib section of two rail islands and a giant L-shaped end-section. Not only that, it looks like all three kickers will have transition sides (shark fins) that will allow riders three lines of attack on every jump – nice!
3. Snowboarding isn’t big in China… yet
We’ve all heard the stats: China has one of the world’s biggest populations (1.3 billion-ish) and the fastest growing global economy of the past few decades. All those people with all that new wealth to spend is good news for the snowboarding business – according to industry mag Boardsports Source: “Ten years ago, it was estimated that 200 people in China had skied. Today, estimates state that over three million people have skied or snowboarded at least once.” And that’s just for starters.
Watch the WCS Yabuli 2016 event teaser:
4. China already has top-level snowboarders
Riding Halfpipe at least. Slopestyle, not so much. In Halfpipe there are two riders currently capable of making podium, at least two that we know of: Xuetong Cai is the girl who just walked away with second place at the Burton US Open, while Yiwei Zhang was the first snowboarder ever to land a triple cork in the Halfpipe. We expect there’ll be a lot more contenders by Beijing 2022.
5. There are a lot of Wangs in China
Based on the rankings list at worldsnowboardtour.com, of the 107 Chinese snowboarders listed, seven have the surname Wang. This may seem like a lot, but it is the most common surname in mainland China.
March 13: Big Air finals
March 14: Semi-finals Halfpipe and Slopestyle
March 15: Slopestyle finals
March 16: Halfpipe finals