Words & photos by Tom Winter

If you’ve paid any attention to the sports pages lately, you’ve probably

noticed that a golfing event called the Ryder Cup is getting a lot of

attention. As a skier, you’ve probably not bothered to read the copy, so

let us paraphrase it for you. Golf’s Ryder Cup pits the USA against

Europe in a team versus team format. This year, the Americans seemed to

be comfortably ahead, holding a 10 to 6 lead going into the final day.

In an amazing comeback, the Euros stormed back to win by 1 point, 14.5

to America’s 13.5. As skiers we don’t need to understand or know about

the nuances of how they score points or the behind the scenes politics

of how the team captains choose their teams in the Ryder Cup. That’s not

important. What is important is the fact that the Ryder Cup provided

the inspiration for a little event called the Swatch Skiers Cup.

Skiing, like golf, is an intensely individual sport. Even events like

the Olympics, which paint athletes in their country’s colors, remain

individual affairs. The Swatch Skiers Cup, like the Ryder Cup, changes

this equation. Rather than competing as individuals, skiers compete as a

team (Americas versus Europe). Each team captain selects the team, and

then determines which athlete will go against a skier from the opposing

team. The head to head heats give one point to the victor. But even a

loss won’t put your team out of contention. It’s like getting beat one

on one in a basketball game. Sure, you may give up a dunk, but your

teammates may rack up two dunks on the other end of the court. It’s an

exciting format that, like this year’s European comeback in the Ryder

Cup, makes for compelling watching until the last turn of the last day.

Team Americas

Team Europe

Held for the second year in a row in Valle Nevado, Chile, the Swatch

Skiers Cup was won by a mere single point by Team Americas. As skiers

you may already know this. But what you may not have heard about is the

fact that with the support of Swatch, the event is now taking a big leap

and hosting the next installment of the Skiers Cup in Zermatt,

Switzerland this February.

Markus Eder

KC Deane

 

According to event organizer Nicolas Hale-Woods, the September event in

Chile was good for a variety of reasons. “The athlete’s schedules are

open at that time and there aren’t a other events to compete with,” says

Hale-Woods. But the problem with Chile is, quite frankly, visibility.

Sure, it was neat to watch a recap of the Swatch Skiers Cup on the prime

time Chilean TV news programs while chilling out in a Santiago hotel

room, but the endemic skiing population in Chile, while passionate,

remains small. Hence, the move to Europe.

Swatch Skiers Cup organizer Nicolas Hale-Woods

Anyone who has ever been to Europe understands that skiing, like golf,

is huge. And that’s Huge with a capital H. The Ryder Cup got a fair

amount of attention in the USA, but it battled with the return of the

NFL refs and the start of college football for media “face time.” That

wasn’t the case in Europe, where the Ryder Cup received big-time media

coverage. The relocation of the Swatch Skiers Cup to Europe has the

potential to change the game when it comes to visibility, and it’s

highly likely that the team format will be fully embraced by not only

the endemic ski media in Europe, but the general interest and news media

as well.

Sverre Liliequist

Sam Smoothy

Hale-Woods admits that he doesn’t think that the Swatch Skiers Cup will

replace other events in skiing, like Winter X Games, and he’s right. But

what he’s not saying (but certainly hoping) is that the move to Europe

will cement the Swatch Skiers Cup’s team versus team type of competition

into the fabric of skiing. Given the success of the Ryder Cup, worse

things could happen. So why you maybe don’t care one bit about golf, the

chances are that you’ll end up caring quite a bit about skiing’s next

big thing: the Swatch Skiers Cup.


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