Go Big! The Insider's Guide to the 2019 World Championships
“The only thing bigger than World Championships is the Olympics,” says decorated freeskier David Wise. And that refrain is echoed over and over by athletes, organizers, and citizens-at-large, with superlatives aplenty. THIS. IS. BIG
Since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, no international snow competition of this magnitude has graced Utah. And while no one is officially calling the 2019 World Championships a dry run for, say, 2026 or 2030, there’s no doubt that the massive event has a role to play in any future bids for the big show. But first things first. The event welcomes roughly 1,200 elite athletes from 40-plus countries to the Wasatch Mountains for the chance to rip and flip their way onto the podium at four venues, spread over three local resorts: Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain, and Solitude Mountain Resort. Just as Sundance Film Festival rolls out of town, elite skiers and snowboarders rush the slopes, February 1 through 10.
Worlds means big stars, a big stage, big debuts, and big tricks. On the celebrity front, expect the likes of America’s snowboarding wonder woman Chloe Kim or Canada’s freestyle royalty Mikaël Kingsbury, and, of course, homegrown talent à la slopestyle comeback kid and Olympic medalist Joss Christensen (check out six homegrown athletes here).
The stage itself is impressive, spanning three top-ranking mountains, saddling the mighty Wasatch. And, beyond the wickedly thrilling freestyle, freeski, and snowboard action, 2019 showcases some of the newest extreme snow sports before their Olympic debut in 2022. Then, there’s the vibe. Cool comes with the territory—the boundary-breaking athletes themselves, the fireworks, the street party in Old Town, the ski/snowboard-junky-inspirational ambience. Yes, the competition is real—and there’s some patriotic pride at stake.
But, as US Ski & Snowboard spokesperson Tom Webb points out, there’s a unique camaraderie among snowboard/freeski/freestyle athletes that supersedes cutthroat rivalry and celebrates each record-shattering move, regardless of nationality. And that genuine excitement is infectious. READY. SET. GO
Deer Valley Resort
Freestyle roots run deep at Deer Valley Resort, beginning with its early ties to “the father of freestyle” and former director of skiing, Stein Eriksen. The sport’s erstwhile renegade reputation may seem to run counter to the oft no. 1–ranked resort’s refined character, but its role as the quintessential moguls and aerials host is legit, spanning 21 years, three World Championships (including this one), 16 World Cups, and, of course, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Freestyle moguls skiing
Ever since Jonny Moseley served up the “Dinner Roll,” freestyle moguls skiers have been upping the ante on inverted spins and flips that go well beyond the old-school heli and daffy. In singles events, athletes are judged on three criteria: speed, jumps, and skiing technique. The course, Champion, is 250 meters long and notoriously steep with bumps dispersed in standard lines—and a few larger moguls in the mix designed to force the athletes to adjust speed. In dual moguls, the criteria are the same as singles, but the first skier to make it to the finish line typically scores enough points to advance.
It’s no surprise that many aerialists have a background in gymnastics. These ski-daredevils launch off of White Owl’s kickers, which range in height from 12 to 14 feet, and flip, twist, and soar, reaching heights of 40 to 55 feet (depending on where you’re measuring from) before attempting to land on a 37-degree slope. Competitors are judged on takeoff, form, and landing, which is then multiplied by degree of difficulty.
The finals, both moguls and aerials. Of note: dual moguls (a non-Olympic sport) is where some of the most thrilling and terrifying near-collisions happen. Prepare for heart-in-your-throat spectating.
Navigating the Worlds at Deer Valley is akin to its annual World Cup events. The best way to access the venue is via city bus to Snow Park Lodge—or park in the free lots, if you feel lucky—and hoof it roughly 20 minutes up to the base of Champion and White Owl runs, where you will likely find 5,000 to 8,000 fellow fans gazing uphill. Lift access is typically limited to those requiring ADA assistance, so prepare for a workout. And, though frowned upon by ski patrol, some folks tend to enjoy sliding on their snow pants back down to the parking lot after the comp is over.
Most of the competition takes place under the lights, but catching training laps from Big Stick (the intermediate run adjacent to Champion) or from the Carpenter Express chairlift is well worth the effort. Yes, you will have to spring for a day’s ticket: $169 at the window for an adult (tip: purchase in advance for $157). Of note: Deer Valley is a skier-only resort, so leave the snowboard at home.
Tuck into some Deer Valley turkey chili and sip an aptly named Champion margarita at Snow Park Lodge’s EBS Lounge (2250 Deer Valley Dr S, 435.649.1000) in that downtime between skiing and spectating—though you can catch a lot of the action from the pub’s deck. Or hop aboard the funicular at neighboring St. Regis Deer Valley (2300 Deer Valley Dr E, 435.940.5700) for lofty views, nibbles, and sips—try the lamb sliders or the barkeep’s King’s Peak Sour. And for that slightly-under-the-radar experience, mosey just down the road to the Brass Tag (2900 Deer Valley Dr E, 435.615.2410) for chimichurri nachos and a pint of locally brewed Hop Rising, or Deer Valley Grocery Café (1375 Deer Valley Dr, 435.615.2400) for avocado beet toast and a glass o’ vino (or a latte and jumbo cookie).
Park City Mountain (and Canyons Village)
Plucky from its 1963 beginnings as Treasure Mountain Ski Area and Park West Ski Area (opened in 1968 on what’s now the Canyons Village side), this now-merged, 7,300-acre resort has a long history of staging world-attention-grabbing events—a tradition that dates back to days as the site of America’s Opening (Alpine skiing’s World Cup domestic season opener). In recent years, Park City Mountain has pulled off World Cups, a pair of Grand Prix events, a Freestyle World Championships, and the 2002 Olympics. And this February, it doubles down as essentially two venues in one, hosting an impressive gamut of snowboard and freeski disciplines, with half-pipe, slopestyle, and giant slalom snowboard racing on the Park City side and big air at Canyons Village.
Slopestyle (ski and snowboard)
According to Olympian Joss Christensen, it’s “a lot like a skate park, just going down a slope using gravity more.” Relatively new on the scene, the freeski discipline made its World Championships debut in 2011 on Park City’s Kings Crown and its first Olympics appearance in 2014 at Sochi. Using terrain park features, athletes endeavor to win points as each rider or skier links together tricks, incorporating jumps and jibs (rails and their brethren). Progression, amplitude (height), variety, execution, and difficulty are part of the judging criteria, with style part of the overall impression. Park City’s 1,800-foot 3 Kings run (a new location this go-around) delivers 400 feet of elevation change to skiers and snowboarders as they compete in their respective events.
Half-pipe (ski and snowboard)
Amplitude (going high out of the half-pipe) is the cornerstone of this discipline. Skiers and boarders soar 15 to 20 feet above the pipe in a ridiculously fast-paced, top-to-bottom run of roughly 35 to 40 seconds. The 22-foot Eagle superpipe, built for the 2002 Games, has a comparatively steep pitch, helping competitors maintain their speed as they pause midair to perform tricks, thus impressing judges.
Parallel slalom and giant slalom snowboarding
This is head-to-head, side-by-side (OK, separated by about a dozen meters) racing. No judges. Just first through the gates to the finish line.
Big air (snowboard and freeski)
Athletes fly off of a humongous, 60-foot ramp, traveling from the jump’s lip and past the knuckle (over 100 feet) while suspended for approximately three seconds as they throw down one spectacular jump—and, hopefully, land. Freeski big air is debuting as a medal event at the World Champs, in line with its impending Olympics inclusion in Beijing.
“If you get a chance to watch big air, go,” advises US Ski & Snowboard spokesperson Tom Webb. Given the hoopla—concerts (the Main Squeeze for Saturday’s opening ceremonies and Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers on February 5) plus literal and figurative fireworks—the event is decidedly a centerpiece. But, all of these events have adrenaline and wow-inducing charisma. You really can’t go wrong here.
On the Park City side, bus it or ski/ride to the base and take a few steps to the roped-off area near 3 Kings and Eagle chairlifts, near the base of the super-pipe, where you can observe the half-pipe competition as well as the last two jump features of the slopestyle course and the racecourse. The rest you can catch on the big screens or on snow. At press time, organizers were still deciding whether public access to the actual deck of Eagle super-pipe—allowing spectators to “experience athletes [flying] right over your head,” according to World Champs organizer Calum Clark—would be permitted. (If it is, get there early.) At Canyons, ride the Cabriolet from the lower lot (accessible via public transit), or seek out an elusive parking spot in the village area, even closer to the action.
While skiers and riders cannot cruise directly along the side of the slopestyle and racecourse runs or the half-pipe, there are a few good viewing spots from an on-hill vantage point. For slopestyle, watch from a moving perch on First Time chair, or hit skier’s far left on First Time run. For an overlook of the entire venue from a distance, hit Kings Crown. While the Quicksilver gondola allows travel from one side of the resort to the other, it’s faster heading from the Park City base to Canyons Village than the other direction. Park City Mountain has variable pricing this winter; purchasing lift tickets online in advance will save a few dollars and time waiting in line.
Nip down the town runs to David Wise’s pick, High West Distillery (703 Park Ave, 435.649.8300) for sea salt and malt vinegar potato chips and a swig of the Grand Duel (made with signature Double Rye!) or hang out at Joss Christensen’s local après favorite, the Corner Store (1325 Lowell Ave, 435.645.8666) for a beer and wings. The Pig Pen (1415 Lowell Ave, 435.655.0070) and its local craft brews and popular Pig-o-licious (bacon cheeseburger topped with BBQ pulled pork) is within a snowball’s throw of the action and Legend’s Bar & Grill, perfect for an espresso martini or seared ahi nachos, is not much farther. Chez Canyons, get those pinkies up for a charcuterie board and glass of shiraz at The Farm (4000 Canyons Resort Dr, 435.615.8080), or go more old school with a DBB (Draft’s Burger Bar, 3000 Canyons Resort Dr, 435.655.2270) Black Diamond Burger and pint of Epic Mountain Ale ($19 World Champs special). Or sidle up to the foosball table with a cold one at the Umbrella Bar (4000 Canyons Resort Dr, 435.615.3307). And for the unofficial—but frequently touted—pick of US-based competitors, don’t miss the burrito and salsa bar at slightly off-the-beaten-path Chubasco’s (1890 Bonanza Dr, 435.645.9114).
Solitude Mountain Resort
Thanks to a solid showing at the 2017 US Grand Prix Tour (as host to snowboardcross World Cup and skicross NorAm), Solitude Mountain Resort steps onto the 2019 stage representing the Wasatch Front. Opened in 1957 and located on National Forest land in the dramatic Big Cottonwood Canyon, this European-style resort kicks off the Worlds with three days of unbridled speed.
Snowboardcross and skicross
Wicked fast. This high-octane sport is a head-to-head, no-holds-barred sprint to the finish (the winners typically do so in 90 seconds). The track itself is different at every venue and, at Solitude, the unique 1,290-meter course has seven turns, 12 jumps, and features ranging from berms and rollers to steeps and flats. Tailored to the well-rounded skier/snowboarder, this discipline requires maximum speed and precision in extremely tight proximity to fellow racers.
Team snowboardcross. It’s shiny new and about to debut at the 2022 Olympics, but what makes it truly unique is that it’s a mixed-gender event. That’s right, women and men, tearing through the track side-by-side. How it works as a relay: when one racer crosses the finish line, the gate up top opens for his or her teammate.
The course is front and center, just above Solitude Village between Apex and Moonbeam chairlifts, so spectators can get close to the action, or cozy up to the firepits on St. Bernard’s (12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon, 801.534.4120) and watch from the deck. But … getting to the village from Park City requires your own wheels and a 42-mile drive via Interstate 80—sadly, scenic and shorter Guardsman Pass isn’t open in winter. While there’s on-site parking, boarding a ski bus at the Park & Ride (6200 S, Salt Lake City) is a better bet; remember some cash for the 14-mile ride up the canyon (Ikon and Solitude passholders get a free ride).
Catch the action from the chairlifts or on snow, adjacent to the course on Main Street run, and consider popping down to Solitude on Wednesday, January 30, when the vast majority of teams plan to train. A few slopeside areas will be roped off to prevent hazardous situations, should a rocketing athlete overshoot the course; otherwise, the on-piste options are wide open. Walk-up rate is $99 per day (advance tickets online are less expensive). Fingers crossed, Solitude gets walloped with at least 500 inches of snow (its annual average) this season.
Wake up with a latte and a breakfast burrito at Stone Haus Pizzeria & Creamery (12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon, 801.536.5767) and wrap up the day with Solitude BrewSki Mountain Lager and some live tunes at Thirsty Squirrel (12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon, 801.534.4120). Don’t miss Joe Petersen’s to-be-revealed specialty cocktail or bison burger at Honeycomb Grill (12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon, 801.536.5787), named for the another don’t-miss: the expert terrain in Honeycomb Canyon. And if you want to experience Salt Lake City, grab nachos and a cold one at snowboarder Alex Deibold’s recommendation, the Beerhive Pub (128 S Main, Salt Lake City, 801.364.4268), where there are 24 beers on tap and 300 bottles, to boot.
Nuts and Bolts
Arrive early for any finals events. Every event (2019worldchamps.com)—from qualifying runs to big band–bedecked opening-and-closing ceremonies—is free and open to the public.
Buckle into some bindings. “If you’re already on the snow, you’re going to have a really easy path to see what’s going on at Deer Valley, Park City, or Solitude,” says US Ski & Snowboard’s Tom Webb. Plus, it’s the best way to catch training and qualifying runs.
Take the bus or carpool. Park City public transit runs a tight, well-orchestrated fleet of free and eco-friendly buses, particularly for events of this size.
Dress in layers for changeable (and presumably chilly) weather, and pack sunblock, sunglasses, beverages, and snacks. You’ll be spectating outdoors in frigid temps, possibly dazzling sun, and walking on snow. And you can’t possibly think the fellow next to you has enough H2O (or PBR) for the entire crowd.
Flag down on-site venue host volunteers in bright green jackets for information and assistance.
Check World Champs social media for updates—#utahworlds2019—and each resort’s respective sites and feeds. Keep in mind that schedules are subject to change. No one wants an aerialist launching off jumps in high winds.
Peruse the sponsor villages (Solitude Mountain and Park City Mountain) for swag, and follow social media for “flash activations” at local retailers.
Party like (and most likely with) a world-class athlete, when the festivities wrap up with an outdoor concert on lower Main Street.
Events are subject to change, so be sure to check 2019worldchamps.com and associated social media outlets for last-minute changes.
- Snowboardcross, Solitude Mountain Resort
- Skicross, Solitude Mountain Resort
- Big Air Skiing, Canyons Village at Park City Mountain
- Concert, the Main Squeeze
- Team Snowboardcross, Solitude Mountain Resort
- Parallel Giant Slalom Snowboard, Park City Mountain
- Parallel Slalom Snowboard, Park City Mountain
- Big Air Snowboarding, Canyons Village at Park City Mountain
- Concert, Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers
- Slopestyle Skiing, Park City Mountain
- Freestyle Aerials, Deer Valley Resort
- Freestyle Team Aerials, Deer Valley Resort
- Half-pipe Snowboarding, Park City Mountain
- Freestyle Moguls, Deer Valley Resort
- Half-pipe Skiing, Park City Mountain
- Dual Moguls, Deer Valley Resort
- Slopestyle Snowboarding, Park City Mountain
- Closing Ceremonies, Historic Main Street, Park City
So, you don’t happen to be in Park City for the first 10 days in February. Don’t fret: you can still tap into the fever.
First, there’s tuning in: all events will be broadcast live on NBC and NBC Sports network. And for those who want to feel the snowflakes on their lashes, many of the thrill-inducing venues are available to the public outside of the prep and competition window. At Deer Valley, try skiing (or tumbling) down Champion when it’s open to the public or seriously splurge on the “Ski With A Champion”—for example, former Olympians Shannon Bahrke or Kris “Fuzz” Feddersen—at $2,000 for a day, $1,200 for a half day. At Park City Mountain, hit the rails and features on 3 Kings and the half-pipe (when Worlds aren’t there), or throw down some tricks at the resort’s five additional terrain parks and mini-pipe. And, yes, you can ski or ride Main Street run, site of the events at Solitude, along with the rest of the mountain.