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Eric Willett on December 13, moving through the 2013 Dew Tour slopestyle qualifiers to the ways finals. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

US Snowboard Team Olympic qualifiers kick off at Dew Tour this weekend

The 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are less than two months away, and for those US riders looking for a place on the Olympic team it all comes down to the next six weeks. The battle for the few coveted halfpipe and slopestyle start spots will unfold over five qualifying stops including the newly added Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colorado, plus four Grand Prixs at Copper, Colorado, Northstar, California, and a double stop at Mammoth, California.

With up to four start spots only—16 total—on the mens and womens slopestyle and halfpipe teams things are going to get heated, especially as the selection process nears the end at Mammoth.

We’ll be covering all the qualifying events on the way to Sochi starting with the Dew Tour as part of our Five Stops To Sochi series presented by Mammoth.

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The 2013 Dew Tour slopestyle and halfpipe courses. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Here’s the breakdown of the five stops plus a look at the qualification process.

US Team Olympic Qualifying Events

 Dew Tour

Breckenridge, Colorado: December 12–15, 2013

Copper Mountain Grand Prix

Copper, Colorado: December 16–22, 2013

Northstar Grand Prix

Northstar, California: January 6–12, 2014

Mammoth Grand Prix

Mammoth, California (double stop)

Finals 1: January 16–17

Finals 2: January 18–19

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Chas Guldemond about to set down in the fifth place qualifying spot for slopestyle finals at the Dew Tour on December 13. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

How US Riders Qualify For Sochi

Understanding how the Olympic qualification works is almost as tough as earning a spot on an Olympic team. Sometimes the riders themselves don’t even get it. Here’s a look that’s as simplified as possible. Rules and regulations—brace yourself.

Every rider needs one top 30 result at a FIS World Cup stop between July 2012 and January 2014, proving he or she is internationally competitive, to be eligible to qualify for his or her country. For example, Chas Guldemond won the Copper Grand Prix slopestyle in January 2013, meaning his eligibility is locked in. But while Shaun White has a top 30 spot for pipe, he doesn’t have a top 30 in a World Cup slopestyle yet. He has to place in the top 30 at either the Copper Grand Prix or Stoneham, Quebec, slopestyles to have a chance to ride in slope at Sochi.

The max team size for the US is 24 riders, with up to 14 riders of one sex. Those 24 riders will be divided over slopestyle, halfpipe, boardercross, and parallel slalom disciplines. But in order to send all 24 riders, start spots have to be earned and held. For the men, this means at least four riders have to stay in the top 30 World Cup rankings leading up to Sochi. The women have to hold a spot in the top 24.

Now it gets a little tricky: those four start spots are interchangeable. Just because a rider got a top 30 World Cup finish doesn’t mean he or she is going to Sochi. It just means that that those four start spots are locked down for any four riders who can earn enough points at the Dew Tour and Grand Prixs. Basically these stops are a free-for-all battle for the four men’s and women’s start spots available for each discipline. And this is when the level of riding should go ballistic.