Alright, let's get this straight kids. Sponsorship is a tool, not a luxury. Someone who does well at the sport, but trashes his gear a lot and can't afford what he needs to keep moving forward should probably look into sponsorship. After that, if he starts doing really well, he may feel as though he has a future in skiing, so he decides to quit everything else and ski full time. This is a risky move, expecially if you don't have anything else to fall back on (ie. education) so he should look into being paid by his sponsors in order to provide him with some security. At this point, he better show them how he's worth their money, or he'll be dropped.
As far as pros and cons go, I think Austin summed it up quite well. You basically work for the company, so you may be expected to do certain things like photoshoots (which really aren't always that fun), demo days etc. which do take away from skiing time. You also have to be careful with the way you act on the hill. Whenever you ski, you represent your sponsors. On the other hand, you get free shit, which kicks ass! The amount and choice of gear really depends on the company, their inventory, and your relationship with them. You might also have to wait a while to get what you want, but free gear rules no matter what!
Ideally, you would be able to afford all your own gear, and you wouldn't have to be anyone's bitch, but skiing is expensive, and sponsorship does help the athletes, and the industry through the power of hype. The bottom line is; if you're looking for a sponsor so you can say, 'I'm sponsored,' you're doing it for the wrong reason. Of course it feels good to know that people look up to you, but sponsorship isn't the only thing people look up to. I look up to someone who is out there every day ripping rather than spitting game about his sponsors. Peace, N8.