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In the 1930s, Norwegian skiers began using ski acrobatics in alpine and cross country training. While not considered a competitive sport, professional skiing exhibitions in the United States featured performances of what would later be called Freestyle skiing.
Aerialists ski off 2-4 meter jumps, that propel them up to 6 meters in the air (which can be up to 20 meters above the landing height, given the landing slope). Once in the air, aerialists perform multiple flips and twists before landing on a 34 to 39-degree inclined landing hill about 30 meters in length.
Aerial skiing is a judged sport, and competitors receive a score based on jump takeoff (20%), jump form (50%) and landing (30%). A degree of difficulty (DD) is then factored in for a total score. Skiers are judged on a cumulative score of two jumps. These scores do not generally carry over to the next round.
There are two varieties of aerial skiing competitions: upright and inverted. In upright aerials, movements in which a skier's feet come higher than his or her head are illegal. This is the most common type of aerials competition for junior competitors. In inverted aerials, the top male aerialists can currently perform triple back flips with up to four or five twists. The first ever 3x5 twist performed on snow during competition was by Czech aerialist Ales Valenta in 2002 during WC in Whistler, CAN. Quadruple back somersaults have been performed on snow (purposely) by eleven men: Frank Bare Jr., Matt Chojnacki, Elijah Cox, Eric Bergoust and Nicolas Fontaine. Currently quad somersaults are not legal in FIS World Cup competition. The most difficult Jump landed in competition was a Quadruple Twisting Quadruple back by Matt Chojnacki in a Gold Cup event.
Aerialists train for their jumping maneuvers during the summer months by skiing on specially constructed Water Ramps for Freestyle Skiing & Snowboarding and landing in a large swimming pool. An example of this is the Utah Olympic Park training facility. A water ramp consists of a wooden ramp covered with a special plastic mat that when lubricated with sprinklers allows an athlete to ski down the ramp towards a jump. The skier then skis off the wooden jump and lands safely in a large swimming pool. A burst of air is sent up from the bottom of the pool just before landing to break up the surface tension of the water, thus softening the impact of the landing. Skiers sometimes reinforce the skis that they use for water-ramping with 6mm of fiberglass or cut holes in the front and back in order to soften the impact when landing properly on their skis.
Summer training also includes training on trampolines, diving boards, and other acrobatic or gymnastic training apparatuses.
This is an early picture (1980's) of a member of the Jaguar Ski Display Team from the UK, performing an inverted aerial.