ZHANGJIAKOU, Hebei — Two-time defending Olympic champion Jamie Anderson and her fellow snowboarders will soon be riding right past the Great Wall — a snow replica of it, anyway.
The course makers at the Beijing Games built a carved-out, block-by-block structure at the top of the slopestyle course as a tribute to China’s iconic monument. This version isn't thousands of miles long, but just long enough to serve up a one-of-a-kind backdrop for the rails and jumps.
There's a practical purpose as well — protection from the strong breezes.
“We’re happy to be here and build this bold, creative and culture-connected course," Janis Jansons, the head builder, said in a sneak-peek video released by the International Ski Federation.
The video featured a look at what went into making the unique structure. The workers used cranes, shovels and saws to carve out the image of the Great Wall. There's also a guard house.
“I would say the Olympics always goes all-out with the courses,” Anderson said. “It’s pretty gnarly.”
The course will be officially on display for the first time Saturday as part of the women's snowboard slopestyle qualifying. It's a course the riders haven't had much time getting to know, which adds another degree of intrigue.
“What’s cool about the Olympics compared to any other event is it’s always on a completely new mountain with a new set-up, so everyone is coming there blind,” Anderson said. “It’s a good challenge.”
Another unique element with the slopestyle course will be some jumps with approaches that are angled into the kickers instead of straight-on. They're unlike most jumps riders spring off of at, say, the Dew Tour or the Winter X Games. But this style was featured at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
“I’ve never seen them anywhere else,” American snowboarder Julia Marino said. “So it’s pretty interesting that they brought those back.”
It’s not the first time the host country has put a taste of home in its course. At slopestyle’s debut in Sochi eight years ago, a massive replica of a Russian nesting doll was planted in the middle of the course, mostly for decoration.
The women's final is set for Sunday and the men's final Monday. Then, the freestyle skiers will take center stage at the slopestyle venue.
“I really like the visual appeal of the course,” American freestyle skier Caroline Claire said. "I’ve never seen a jump have a cut-out. ... For them to bring other parts of the world into a slope course and for it not to look like a mountain obstacle course, it’s really neat.”