Photos: Dan Brown
On long drives sometimes the dotted white highway lines can get hypnotic. They are ten feet long and ten feet apart, something to consider as they whip past the car looking way shorter and way closer together. It was on that train of thought I found myself speeding toward Killington, VT, on Sunday, for another stop on Andy Parry’s Tell a Friend Tour.
Well, not just another stop. There was a competition in Killington, part of Andy's plan to expand the role of TAFT to be more than just an on-hill event for kids. He promised something new, and Newschoolers was heading down to check it out.
Those who were tuned to the Line Skis Instagram story Saturday night may have seen Andy, black cowboy hat on top, with $3000 in cash spread across the dining room table - total prize money for Sunday's competition. And while it's not huge purse compared to some events, it's not pennies either. Put it this way: it was more than anyone had on them walking into the day. Who else can raise their hand and say they have three grand in their pocket to give away to the first kid who gets two pretz two on this down rail?
Understanding the value of this competition requires understanding a bit about Andy Parry. Like, how he's an ordinary dude as soon as you remove the filter of skiing. How he owns a house outside Mount Hood; how he’s getting married. He'll tell you, this sport is something he can always do. It doesn’t have to be the thing. I think that’s the freedom that most look for in skiing. To be in control of the where, when and why they do it.
And so, he explains, this competition represents something he’s wanted for a while. It's an opportunity to give something back to his friends, while at the same time, he stresses, opening doors to all kinds of levels of talent. That’s the key. This project comes from within, an effort for skiers to help skiers. And hopefully some kids will show up. Lord knows the talent exists, the question is whether they have the wits to get here. Whether it seems worth it. I wonder, did the message get out.
So, in the morning. Somebody passes us on a double yellow and Andy honks and yells “first chair!” and shakes the steering wheel. “I wanna go skiing!!” he screams with mock enthusiasm. A couple minutes later he asks, does Erik remember the time when he got first gondola? Worth it.
In the lodge, Andy sets up at a table and signs kids in for registration. Sawyer Sellingham, who has been travelling with the tour, is on the phone with Tyler Mega, talking him into getting down here. There’s three grand in cash, who else is going to win it? It begins to dawn that this is a good question.
On hill, Jeff Curry explains the intention for the competition. There is money here for good tricks and good times. He and Andy are pretty sure the world is unfair, he tells the crowd. Competitions are unfair, they privilege physicality over creativity; on a basic level, no one should judge skiing. Today, he says, is not about that. It’s about doing cool shit and getting paid for it, in cash. For his part, Shane McFalls declares $20 towards the worst trick of the day.
Jeff reminds the crowd that “best trick doesn’t mean craziest thing.” This strikes me. We are here today because Andy Parry envisions a competition that doesn't rely on the same criteria of "amplitude," "insanity" or "control." Yet we can't shake the impulse, when someone says "best trick," to try and get 630 on to a down bar. Sea change works slowly.
In the lodge, where we've gathered for pizza and prizes at the end of the day, Andy tells us some more about the perceived issues in competitive skiing, and a bunch of kids from the Virginia Tech ski team look on.
A kid named Billy took a 450 to the second flat of a dfd, earning him a hundred dollars cash. Another, named Jamieson, won another hundred and his dad was stoked: “Yeah J!”
Mike Brewer and Sawyer Sellingham split top spot while, to this observer, Evan Gurek was overlooked for his consistent delivery and heavy tricks. Comp’s ain’t fair, man!!
It's over now, and some guys have gone home richer than they came in. Huge thanks to Andy Parry, Jeff Curry, Kevin Merchant, Erik Olson, Shane McFalls, Dan Brown, Ian Compton, Mike Garceau, the gang at Newschoolers, hell, anyone who made the trip to Killy. Whether you believe him or not, Andy Parry is going to change skiing. I think the sooner we clue in, the closer we all are to earning a little money for this hard work.