The Summit Freeski Tour kicks off March 1st at Val Saint Come, with a $2500 cash purse, and AFP points on the line. For the full event description, registration details and contact information, visit summitfreeskitour.com
There’s a conversation to be had about competition skiing. Well, maybe it’s just a part of the ongoing conversation on competitions. You know the one, that pits “core” skiers against money- and fame-driven ones. Those who ski for the pure fun of it versus those who only care about immaculate execution and the next variation of triple cork. Or so the story goes. The fact of the matter is that “freeskiing” as we know it has always relied on a certain competitive element, and the sport itself was born out of classic events like the US Open, the Dew Tour and even X Games.
Recently though, in what has been both a cause and an effect of the chorus of voices opposed to comp skiing, those smaller, grassroots competitions have become scarce. Swallowed up by TV dollars and shifting priorities within the skiing community, open-style comps have all but vanished, and with them many of the opportunities for young skiers to try their hands at competing.
Phil Belanger, whose D-Structure shop has been a staple of the Quebec scene for the the past 15 years, has seen the ups and the downs. He knows something’s got to give, and this year he’s turning an old idea into a new reality.
Where did the idea for the tour come from?
“The thing is that D-Structure has been here in Quebec for the last 15 years, and I’ve been doing a lot of jam events to introduce freeskiing to kids. But in the last 3 years there’s been a real lack of contests beyond just rail jams or Am contests. Video has always been a big part of all the Quebec riders; and all the street segments and all that. But the sport is growing so fast that now the freeskiing aspect we need to cover is contests. Now kids have something to aim for in their future.”
With the decline in amateur level open competitions, how important is it to have a tour like this?
“Well we could have just done it through [private] ski clubs, doing moguls, freestyle and aerials, but that’s not where I wanted Quebec to go. This way you don’t need to be part of a team or club … now you can come as an independent entrant. You see this across all comps: they’re being organized by government bodies, both in Canada and the US, but there’s nothing independent – like the Gatorade freeflow tour – there’s less and less of that left. It’s an important avenue to make sure the sport keeps growing.”
What’s the value of competition skiing these days? Is there a way to make comps more fun, or get away from the stigma of comp skiing?
“The thing is it’s how people see the way competitions are. That’s why we do these kinds of tours, is to give those kids a goal. So if they don’t win, the next day they go on the hill and they try a little harder to get a little better.
“And you know maybe they say to themselves okay next time I’m going to try to be better. Instead of a 360 maybe I’ll try and get that extra 180 in there. At the end of the day, like anything else, it’s fun to have a goal. You need to have dreams and goals.
“You don’t need to succeed or be the best, but you need a formula for creating success. For the older guys there’s the opportunity to earn some money, for the younger kids it’s gonna be a lot of product; and we’re going to be doing video edits for all the stops. I want to keep it as cheap as possible. It’s a day of fun with your friends. Like you can say who can do the best 540, and that gets judged. And it’s not just for Quebeckers, I want to give the shot to outsiders to get more specific contest-wise points.”