All photos: Chris Wellhausen

Slopestyle course walk through from the Sochi Winter Olympics

Slopestyle kicks off the Olympic snowboard events at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Thursday when men and women drop in for the first qualifying round. Don’t expect riders to hold anything back just because it’s qualies—the top six men and women automatically advance to finals while the rest will have to battle in semifinals for the remaining six spots. With a two-run format that’s a lot of incentive to put down a hammer run right out of the gate and secure a spot in the medal round. The riders know that, too—a bunch have already been spotted throwing triple corks in practice.

Earlier in the week the course design created some controversy after Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone and riders like Seb Toutant and Roope Tonteri said they thought the course wasn’t that safe. Shaun White echoed those comments when he dropped out of the competition late Wednesday afternoon saying, “With the practice runs I have taken, even after course modifications and watching fellow athletes get hurt, the potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympics goals on.”

Others like Sage Kotsenburg feel that things weren’t that out of the ordinary. “We ride and after the first day the riders give feedback on the course,” he said. “Then they [the course builders] work on it.”

And today Chas Guldemond backed the course in a Facebook post when he wrote, “The jumps are sick and the flow is really good. Don’t believe the media hype.”

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Massive jumps and massive landings on the slope course.

US Olympic team press officer Nick Alexakos also provided some context on what’s happening behind-the-scenes, saying that while the jumps were poppy on the first day there have been open lines of communication at the riders meetings and changes have been made as they normally would at any event such as the X Games or Grand Prix.

There’s also the theory that course designers made the setup bigger than usual because they were worried about warm weather that could shrink the features through melting. Which makes sense, because it’s always easier to cut something back than to build it up once the basic structure has been set.

While there continue to be mixed feelings about the setup this much is sure: even with the tweaks the jumps are still huge. The action gets underway at 10 a.m. Thursday (Moscow Time Zone, 10 p.m. Wednesday, Pacific Time).

More Sochi 2014 Olympic stories here