What is ski slopestyle?

Indiana native Nick Goepper will try to win gold in ski slopestyle Thursday.
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Indiana Olympian Nick Goepper will try to grab the first gold medal in the new Olympic sport of ski slopestyle Thursday, but many people still don't know what the extreme sport really is.

The sport is fun to watch, with skiers catapulting off rails, quarterpipes and jumps and performing high-style tricks. It's a well-established event at the trendy X Games.

"When I was younger, it was all about the X Games and it was all about, like, making it out west," Goepper said.

It was a big dream for the boy from southern Indiana. Goepper, 19, grew up in Lawrenceburg and learned to ski at Perfect North. Now, he is the reigning X Games champion and will represent Team USA in the sport's Olympic debut in Sochi.

"I was ecstatic to learn it was in the Olympics. I remember the minute it got added, I called my coach and freaked out. I was, like, 'It's in? It's in? No way!'," Goepper said.

But what is it, exactly? And was NBC's Bob Costas joking or candidly on point when he talked about ski slopestyle with Matt Lauer on the TODAY Show?

"I think the president of the IOC should be Johnny Knoxville," he said. "Because basically this stuff is just 'Jackass' stuff they invented and called an Olympic sport."

While some athletes took offense, Goepper took to Twitter.

"Thanks Bob Costas! Hopefully now more people will watch us," he tweeted.

But even the TODAY Show background video reveals confusion. It's an athlete on the halfpipe, but Goepper's mother is there to explain the difference.

"Nick doesn't do the halfpipe, he grinds on rails, which means he slides down metal railings," Linda Goepper said.

Ski slopestyle has a long downhill course with six to eight features, like a terrain park.

To help educate about the sport, Goepper shot video with sponsor Red Bull explaining tricks and his mindset.

Judges determine the winner and the score is an overall impression based on amplitude and creativity - if the skiers twist in both directions, how their skis cross, if they get a grab on the ski in flight - and, of course, the landing.

If skiers go into an apparatus backwards, it's called "switch." You can land backward in switch, too. Big tricks are double corks and triple corks.

Goepper's father says when watching a competition, he focuses on the start and the finish.

"I will look for how he comes out the gate, what happens on the first apparatus," Chris Goepper said. "I look for if he can land like a butterfly, as opposed to a rock and make it look easy. Then he's had a good run."

"I guess it's like gymnastics, if you do the trick and you land. If you don't have a good landing, then the trick doesn't matter," Nick said.

Nick Goepper gets his shot at gold early Thursday morning in Sochi.