It’s finally here, the actual greatest sporting event in the entire world bar none, (sorry if you disagree, but you are incorrect). It is Olympics season and more specifically, Winter Olympics season.
Much like all dogs are good dogs, all Olympic level competition is good competition. But someone has to tell you which ones are worth spending your entire Saturday watching and which ones are safe to just catch the highlights. We’re here to do the dirty work for you.
Let’s start by saying this: there are 15 categories of sports at the Winter Olympics this year but significantly more events. For example, snowboarding is comprised of vastly different competition styles from halfpipe to slopestyle. In the interest of brevity, we’re keeping it to a tight 15.
15. Cross Country Skiing
This is an easy one. Look I’m sorry to cross-country skiing fans, but as a rule, if my dad can do it, no matter the speed, we don’t want to watch it at the Winter Olympics.
The only thing that separates cross country skiing and the biathlon are guns and frankly, watching people shoot guns at a target is boring as hell. Call me when they have to shoot at the target WHILE cross country skiing.
13. Speed Skating
Speed skating of the non-short track version is like the marathon of the winter Olympics. It’s obviously impressive but it takes too long to be sexy. Why do you want to watch people go in circles for like 15 minutes when you can watch short track in under three minutes?
12. Nordic Combined
Nordic combined does include one of the most insane things we, as a society, have deemed acceptable to do as a sport: ski jumping. But, it also contains the worst sport of all: cross-country skiing. And for this reason, it loses most of the appeal.
Before you come at me, Canadians and people of the upper Midwest region, consider this: You can watch ice hockey EVERY YEAR, ALL OF THE TIME. We can’t catch curling on NBC just any old day. Just like basketball isn’t the most lit sport at the Summer Olympics, we cannot in good faith give Hockey a higher ranking.
It hurts my soul to rank curling so low. There’s something undeniably enjoyable about hearing people scream “Sweep! Sweep!” with the urgency of someone trying to put out a fire. But the truth is I’m pretty sure anyone could be taught to curl. Certainly skill is involved, but it’s a skill like bowling is a skill.
We mean no disrespect to the bobsled teams of Olympics past, but when it comes to racing down the ice, bobsled can’t quite compete with skeleton or luge. The most fun part of bobsled is watching four people squeeze themselves into a tiny sled while running.
Stuck between bobsled and skeleton is luge, where one or two athletes race feet-first down what is essentially a super dangerous, extremely fun slide on a fiberglass sled. Watching two-man luge is funny because they’re just stacked like pancakes on that tiny sled. 10/10 would recommend.
Skeleton is just a more terrifying version of luge because you have to go FACE FIRST. You also don’t start on the sled, you start by running at full speed for 40 meters and jumping head first onto the sled before navigating the course with your face mere millimeters from the ice at more than 80 MPH.
6. Figure Skating
Even if you don’t “get” what makes figure skating so incredible—although you should, because they launch themselves into the air, spin and then land on a single blade on ice—then come for the drama. There’s no other sport where we get up-close reactions from pissed athletes as they get final scores. Figure skating also has the best commentating at the Olympics in Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski who keep it a buck and don’t mind being a little messy.
5. Alpine Skiing
Alpine skiing can’t compete with it’s younger, cooler brother in freestyle skiing but it’s still fun as hell. Alpine consists of various combinations of downhill and slalom skiing events both of which include skiers appearing to defy the laws of gravity at speeds that we wouldn’t want to travel in a car, let alone down a mountain with almost zero protection.
4. Short Track Speed Skating
Short track is like watching NASCAR but it’s human bodies crashing and there’s less country music being played. When one person falls, it almost always causes a domino effect, and then it’s up to the judges to decide if it was intentional or not. The drama is juicy as hell and this year Maame Biney and Erin Jackson make history with Team USA as the first two African-American women on the speed skating team.
Snowboarding is more than just watching Shaun White land 1440s in the halfpipe, although that alone is pretty insane. Unlike skiing, all snowboarding events are grouped together and include a new event this year, Big Air. Big Air is just snowboarders launching into the air in an attempt to do a single trick and land it. That might not sound incredible, but the ramp is 160 feet high and sits at a 40 degree slope. Don’t sleep on slopestyle, either, which is basically a skatepark on a hill in the snow.
2. Ski Jumping
Ski jumping is the closest thing we have to human flight until Elon Musk inevitably creates some kind of flying suit. Until then, we have this. In the K120 event aka the large hill, skiers are expected to travel from a ramp, through the sky, to the “K point” which is 120 meters or, for non-metric system fans, 393 feet. That’s more than the length of a football field. They then get scored for HOW THEY LAND. As if they don’t all deserve top marks for just not breaking their legs. This is also only the second time the IOC allowed women to compete in ski jumping so +100 for progress.
1. Freestyle Skiing
If you’re confused why freestyle skiing tops the list, just Google “Olympic Aerials” and answer the question for yourself. Not only does freestyle include aerials but it’s also got moguls, halfpipe, slopestyle, and ski cross which is literally a motocross race but on snow with skis. It’s messy, people knock each other out and last Olympics the guy who took home bronze crash landed across the finish line. There isn’t an event that falls under freestyle that you shouldn’t be watching.