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Interview with Halfpipe Judge Michael A. Cohen

interviewed by Lauren Traub Teton
August 2007

Find out what is going on in the judges' minds while you are flinging yourself around in the air in a competition.

"I judge a little differently than other judges because of my skateboard background. In halfpipe and slopestyle, Iım looking for a resurgence of skateboard moves and style."

We first met Michael Cohen on the chairlift at Killington last Spring where he was judging at
Spring Loaded and then caught up with him in New York City for an interview.

Is there an association for snowboard judges?
The IJC - ­ International Judges Committee.
In my region (Southern VT) there are 10-15 judges.
Every big halfpipe competition has 4 judges. Some major events like the US Open have 8 judges, a front line and a back line.
Weıre all 4 either at the top of the pipe or the bottom.

Certificates and training
Through IJC, you get a certificate. Requirements to be a judge include 5 ­ to 10 years snowboarding experience, a month of rigorous training, watching videos, reading manuals. Home study and clinics.

What events do you judge?
Slopestyle, rail jams, quarterpipe, halfpipe, and big air. In Boardercross there are no judges, just watching the gates to make sure riders go around them properly. Thatıs a volunteer job which sometimes I do.

What is the rule if one misses a gate in Snowboardcross. Can you go back?
As long as you make the gate at some point, itıs fine. If you don't you're DQıd (disqualified).

How are events judged - Amateur and pro, or lower level and advanced?
USASA is considered an amateur contest series, and we judge that differently than a pro event. We want to score riders by criteria that will help improve their contest careers. At USASA we say at the riders meeting what weıre judging on.

In USASA halfpipe for example, there are 4 judges, each assigned a criteria: amplitude, standard maneuvers, rotation, and overall impression. Scale of 1-10.
EG. Amplitude, riding to the top of the pipe is 5

For pro events, the riders donıt need that feedback, and are judged by one standard of overall impression.

I judge a little differently than other judges because of my skateboard background. In halfpipe and slopestyle, Iım looking for a resurgence of skateboard moves and style. [I look for] Backside lipslides if theyıre boned out and held longer, when they stay on the rail longer. I look for a run to be real clean and flowing, at the same speed. I donıt like to see them slow up before the rails. Speed is your friend, it helps keep the run solid and fluid. And when it comes down to it, itıs all about how you look.

Who's hot now?
Lucas Magoon, Scotty Arnold, KP, the entire Mitrani clan(Luke, Jack and Liza).
Trevor Andrew portrays an amazing skateboard style on the snow like no other.
Also, Peter Line, Mike Micahelchuk, Forest Bailey, Coleen Quigly, Tricia Byrnes, Louie Vito.

Ian Kurt,Stratton Mountain School's Scott Johnston, and Brent Johnston. Phoebe Mills was Danny Kassı coach. And she was the 1988 bronze medallist in gymnastics in the Olympics. Sheıs a judge, on the committee. She might someday be the first US American Olympic Snowboard Judge. We don't have one yet.

Hot Amateurs?
Chris Maseresi, the Shaw Family (Brooke and Spencer), Ellery Hollingsworth, Molina Cera, and Eric Cera. Tyler Leach. And Eddie Wall Sr.

How do you dress when you are judging snowboard comps?
I always dress up to judge. ­ I wear dress shirts, nice sweaters. I dress up "casal nice" for judging, like for a date. I feel the way you look has a lot to do with the way you perform and act.

Do you get cold?
No! Iım one of the few judges who sometimes doesnıt wear a glove when I judge. Iım naturally warm, and I dress right.

How many layers?
On a cold day, first layers, then 2 or 3 more.
Iım also the only judge that drives 250 one way to many events.

Michael, thank you for us some insight into the life of a snowboard competition judge.
See Michael A Cohen's profile on

"Let's Ride!"






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