The 2023/24 FIS Park & Pipe World Cup season begins in a big way this week, with the Big Air Chur Festival once again kicking the door down on winter with a weekend of music, culture, parties, and the best freeski and snowboard action on earth on the biggest scaffold jump to ever be set up in Switzerland.
Before things get underway in Chur, however, we’ve got the 2022/23 FIS Freeski big air World Cup season preview.
BIG AIR CHUR FESTIVAL (SUI) – 20 OCT
Big Air Chur set a whole new standard upon its debut as a World Cup stop back in 2021/22, and since then the season-opening competition has done nothing but get bigger, better and wilder. With some 25,000 people set to pass through the gates over the course of the weekend, a music festival atmosphere, and the biggest jump ever assembled in Switzerland towering over it all in the Grisons Rhine Valley, the Big Air Chur is set to once again set the season off on a high.
BEIJING (CHN) – 30 NOV-02 DEC
Stop number two on this season’s big air World Cup takes us back to what is arguably the most striking venue in all of snowsports, the world’s first (and only) permanent, purpose-built big air venue in Beijing (CHN). The site of indelible memories from the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the Beijing big air venue is without parallel in the world. Don’t miss this one, because it’s almost a guarantee that we’ll see the highest competition level of the season there in China.
VISA BIG AIR AT COPPER MOUNTAIN (USA) – 13-16 DEC
Copper Mountain keeps bringing the goods, year in and year out, and last season was no exception as the resort welcomed big air World Cup action to its slopes for the first time since 2017/18, reminding us all how much we love a good ol’ fashioned on-piste booter comp. Throw in the annual halfpipe festivities as well, and Copper is shaping up again to be the perfect way to send us into the holiday break.
TIGNES MOUNTAIN SHAKER (FRA) – 13-15 MAR
Tignes is one of the absolute OGs of the FIS Freestyle World Cup, hosting its first World Cup back in 1980 and seeing every single FIS Freestyle and Freeski World Cup event hit its storied slopes at some point in the last 43 years.
Every event except big air, that is.
This season that all changes, and Tignes will stamp the final box on its bingo card when nighttime big air action goes down as part of the Mountain Shaker weekend. With crystal globes to hand out there in Tignes and the always outrageous French crowd on hand to witness the madness, this is gonna be a good one.
THE HEAVY HITTERS – WOMEN
TESS LEDEUX – 21 – FRA
The reigning big air World Champion and Olympic silver medallist, Tess Ledeux has only missed a World Cup big air podium once in the past three seasons, making her one of the most consistent – and consistently impressive – performers in all of freeski. While she’s already about to start her eighth season of international competition Ledeux is still just 21 years old and only getting better.
MEGAN OLDHAM – 22 – CAN
Five words: world’s first women’s triple cork.
Last season Megan Oldham made history on way to winning X Games gold when she dropped the first triple cork stomped by a woman. Throw in a pair of World Championships medals (silver in slopestyle, bronze in big air) and a couple of World Cup podiums (including big air victory at Copper Mountain (USA)) and you’ve got one of the finest freeski seasons we’ve seen in quite some time. The scary thing for the rest of the field is that 22-year-old Canadian is really only hitting her prime now. We expect to see even more out of her in 2023/24.
MATHILDE GREMAUD – 23 – SUI
While Mathilde Gremaud’s slopestyle triumphs loom largest – gold at the Beijing 2022 Olympics and at the Bakuriani 2023 World Championships – she’s no slouch on the big jump either, having hit the big air podium in every career World Cup start except two. Somehow, despite all her career successes, Gremuad has never won a crystal globe, and while most would bet on her to take the slopestyle trophy first, a big air overall win should never be out of the question for a skier as talented as she is.
KIRSTY MUIR – 19 – GBR
Is this season 19-year-old Muir firmly establishes herself as one of the freeski world’s elite, week in and week out? While she’s made finals in every World Cup start since the beginning of the 2021/22 season, she only earned a single podium in that time, while also falling just short of a medal with a fourth-place big air finish at the Bakuriani 2021 World Champs. We say this is the season that Kirsty Muir takes the next step and starts locking down top-3s on the regular.
SANDRA EIE – 27 – NOR
Speaking of next steps, Sandra Eie proved last season that it’s never too late to elevate your game, as the 27-year-old earned her first major international podium with a World Championships big air silver in Georgia. With her compatriot Johanne Killi announcing her retirement just over a month ago, Eie is now the leader of women’s freeskiing in Norway, and she’ll be looking to add to her career top-3 totals in a big way in 2023/24.
THE HEAVY HITTERS – MEN
BIRK RUUD – 23 – NOR
Simply put, Birk Ruud is the most talented freeskier in the world right now. The 23-year-old is coming off a record-setting 2022/23 season in which he earned five victories and podiums in seven of seven World Cups entered, claiming the slopestyle and the freeski overall crystal globes while also earning slopestyle gold and big air bronze at the World Championships in Bakuriani.
We didn’t award a big air crystal globe last season, but if we had done so there’s about a 99.5 percent chance that Ruud would have won that, too. With victories in both of last winter’s big air World Cups, as well as the big air gold from the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, 2023 X Games big air bronze, and the aforemementioned World Champs bronze, Birk Ruud has done more than enough to make himself the de facto man-to-beat at every competition he enters this season.
MATEJ SVANCER – 19 – AUT
If we’re being honest, Matej Svancer did not have a great season in 2022/23, missing the podium completely and oftentimes not even finding his way into finals. Further, Svancer hasn’t seen the World Cup podium since his victory at Steamboat (USA) back at the start of the 2021/22 season. However, Svancer is simply too talented for this trend to continue. Quite simply, there’s no else like him in freeskiing, and we expect him to translate last season’s frustrations into this season’s successes. Book it.
ANDRI RAGETTLI – 25 – SUI
What can we say about Andri Ragettli that hasn’t been said before? Now 25 years old, Ragettli has held a position amongst the world’s technical elite for over a decade, winning damn near everything there is to win during that time and maintaining a level of consistency that may never be matched in competition freeskiing. Ragettli’s will to win is second to none, and we expect that he’ll be in the podium hunt in every single start once again in 2023/24.
TROY PODMILSAK – 19 – USA
The Bakuriani 2023 big air World Champion, Troy Podmilsak made quite the splash in his first full season of International competition in 2022/23. With a third-place finish to start his winter in Chur, and his history-making win in Georgia – where he become the first skier in history to land a forward 2160 – Podmilsak has cemented himself as one of the most exciting talents in the freeski world.
LUKAS MUELLAUER – 26 – AUT
While he’s only got one World Cup podium in 50 World Cup starts, Lukas Muellauer turned more than a few heads at the World Championships last season when he stomped a switch left double cork 2160 blunt on his way to earning Bakuriani 2023 silver. While Muellauer has long been a strong contender with not much to show for it, the 2023 World Champs may have been the jumping off point for his big air career to take the next step.
STORYLINES TO WATCH
- Crystal globes: With four big air competitions on the World Cup calendar, 2023/24 will see the big air crystal globes awarded for the first time since the 2019/20 season. With no World Championships or Olympics on the calendar this winter, it’s all about the World Cup and the chase for the globes.
- Newcomers: the once-every-four-years season that sees no Olympic and no World Championships on the schedule can be a big one for up-and-comers, as some of the more established World Cup veterans are a little more choosy about picking their starts. Will we see some of the young guns like Junior World Champions Flora Tabanelli (ITA) and Leo Landroe (NOR) staking out their place amongst the big dogs this season?
- The return to China: After seeing 2160s hit the big air World Cup last season at Bakuriani, what can we expect to see in Beijing, on the world’s first and only permanent big air structure?
- Season finale in Tignes: Tignes first-ever turn hosting big air World Cup competition will also be the season ender, where we’ll be handing out the 2023/24 big air crystal globes. Who will be in contention for the trophies come time for the final runs of the winter?
Header image: Mathilde Gremaud (SUI). Credit: Christian Stadler/Big Air Chur