Snowboarding-'Great Wall' course brings art to slopestyle competition

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ZHANGJIAKOU, China, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Fans of snowboarding and freestyle skiing can expect a spectacular backdrop as the slopestyle competitions get underway at the Beijing Games on a course inspired by Chinese culture and featuring a replica of the famous Great Wall.

The course is at the Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park, with International Ski Federation (FIS) describing it as "arguably the most technically advanced, thoughtfully designed, and awe-inspiring slopestyle course ever constructed".

For Dirk Scheumann, CEO of course designers Schneestern, the challenge was to combine art and the existing environment at the venue, some 200 km (125 miles) northwest of Beijing.

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"The main goal was a creative course that's connected to Chinese culture, and the main challenge was to protect riders from strong westerly winds," Scheumann told Reuters.

"Where would you like to be in windy conditions? Behind the wall, right? That's how the Great Wall of China design gets into the game."

Slopestyle courses are usually designed with a set of rails at the top and three jumps towards the bottom for the athletes to perform breathtaking flips and spins after gathering momentum.

"The rails features in Genting are installed in steps that go lower and lower towards the right side. We believe it will serve its function and that riders will be able to perform at their best," Scheumann said.

"Once the wind issue was solved, we put all the effort into designing creative lines, rails, take-offs, and landings. We hope to see all the lines we imagined, and even beyond."

Athletes have already expressed their admiration for the eye-catching design.

"The course is pretty amazing … there's an amazing piece of snow artwork of the Great Wall. I've never seen anything like it, they've really outdone themselves," said New Zealand snowboarder and Pyeongchang Big Air bronze medallist Zoi Sadowski-Synott.

Australia's Tess Coady agreed.

"They've done a really great job in the build, and aesthetically it looks really nice - I'm sure we could watch for that, but now it looks like it's going to ride really good, too," the 21-year-old said.

For Scheumann and his team, the task of designing courses is an ever-evolving one.

"With our current experience and tools, we can unite the functionality of the sport and the story of the host country's culture - the Great Wall of China is a great story to showcase and tell to millions of TV spectators," he said.

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Reporting by Philip O'Connor Editing by Robert Birsel

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