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Ski cross, try something new

SKI CROSS

New discipline, new sensations
Skicross? The latest ski federation sport, skicross arrived as an offshoot of the freestyle in 2003. Skicross, or 'SX' (S for ski, and X for cross…) is now an official international ski federation discipline, featuring as an olympic discipline for the first time in Vancouver in 2010.

Do you remember the frenzied violence of the 1970s film, Rollerball? Inspired by motocross, skicross is similar to Rollerball in that the competitors give their all in a no-holds-barred face-off that ends with just one winner!
Competitors must first go through the preliminary heats. The qualifiers begin with an individual timed qualifying round, moving onto heats where 4 or 6 competitors race to cross the finish line first. The first two to arrive then compete again to leave just one winner, while the others are eliminated. This is not a course for the weak-hearted: rough physical contact, elbowing and shouldering are all part of the game and there's plenty of risk-taking too with hazardous overtaking, jumping, cutting corners, lightening starts, wipe-outs... you name it! Everything goes and it is an amazing spectator sport! With a course full of random pitfalls and jumps, skicross is an incredibly exciting sport.
Spectator sport first and foremost
A skicross course features banked turns, moguls, jumps and unexpectedly rugged terrain. Skiers are less interested in the pure technique that alpine skiers aim for, instead putting all their effort into coming first in the spectacular race!
The best word to describe competitive SX would be electrifying.
However, skicross is also a great sport for average and experienced skiers who can enjoy and discover the terrific sensations on the skicross course (bordercross) that most resorts have installed in their snowparks. These are open to all skiers according to their level of experience. Skiers from all generations crowd onto the course to enjoy the run, the jumps and the banked turns. It's so much fun that they stay for hours competing against the rest of the family, girls against boys and parents against children!
The open courses are nothing like the World Cup runs. The moguls have been shaped so as not to throw the skier too high, the whoops (series of mini moguls that look like so many waves of snow) are easy to ski, and the banked turns let you pick up speed safely. Safely? You need to take each course relatively slowly before throwing yourself headlong into the race as the terrain is full of pitfalls, but that's what makes skicross such fun. You're strongly advised to wear a helmet as falls are frequent. If you want to do the sport at competition level, it's mandatory to wear a helmet. You can also wear padded body armour, as this sport calls for maximum protection!
A 'run' or descent, takes around a minute to complete. It might not seem long but it's pretty intense to say the least: you're not going to be grinning across at your mum on the sidelines so she can take your photo. In skicross, you look straight ahead at what's coming up next if you don't want to come a nasty cropper. The run begins at the start device where 4 skiers grip the gate handles before throwing themselves into race. Your performance depends on a good take-off. The gates only open when the race begins, the same as in moto cross.
If this is your first skicross experience, try it in pairs first, and then have a go in a group of 4.
Of course, the golden rule is safety first, so don't shoot off like a rocket from the top of the course straightaway: go for a slower run first with a partner to suss out all the traps, and once you've got the lie of the land you can attack it for real with 3 friends, but make sure you don your helmet, goggles and body armour first. This is certainly not the place for bonnet and sunglasses; a fall at these speeds could really do some damage.

Alpe d’Huez is one of the pilot skicross resorts with a permanent course, organized competitions (including a World Cup), top-flight athletes (4 selected for the Olympic Games: Olivier Fabre, Sylvain Miaillier, Robin Lenel and Ophélie David), and even a skicross video game that you can play on www.alpedhuez.com.
Photos : Laurent SALINO / OT Alpe d'Huez
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