Incidents like the outburst from Joe Fitzgerald, the FIS official at the World Championships and the restrictive Olympic process have unveiled how out of touch bureaucracy of the competition scene can be. Competitions have become almost unachievable and unrelatable to the masses, isolating them from the core of skiing. This leaves us searching for alternatives. Andy Parry is one skier that has sought to walk the walk, moving past the "Fuck FIS" social posts, and creating real meaningful change at the grassroots level of skiing. Andy admits that competitions like those he is seeking to create will not unseat the X Games and Dew Tour, but they do offer an alternative path for up-and-comers.
Competitions have been a controversial and polarizing since the birth of the sport. On one hand, the very concept of a 'freeskiing' competition can be seen as contradictory. On the other hand, it's natural to want see how you stack up against your peers. With 'freeskiing' now on the Olympic stage and nearing its second games, the wedge has only been driven deeper. Skiers, journalists, and casual viewers alike separate contests and contestants into their of realm of skiing, classifying them as alien to the rest of the sport. It is not that these competition skiers are not participating in skiing the same as the rest of us, it's that the strict structure of their organizations have built a moat isolating them. While there are certainly skiers who transcend this classification, and contests that hit right home to skiing's roots, it is great to see skiers like Andy bringing contests back to the masses.
The following is Andy talking about Tell a Friend Tour, and changing the way we as skiers look at competitions. It has been edited slightly for clarity and length.
What's Wrong with the Current Contest Scene
I'm going to go ahead and say that competitions don't belong anywhere in skiing, but if someone's going to do it, you might as well have someone doing it right. If all of this shit is happening at all of these competitions, if kids are going out and saying "this is it, I'm going to go pro by winning this competition," they're not delusional, but they've been put into this system that makes them delusional. They think that winning this regional comp, or even getting 5th, will be something to put on a resume and send to a sponsor that will pick them up. You know what? No one is going to email you back, that's the thing. If you want a sponsorship it's not going to be by emailing your sponsor-me video, it's going to be by getting noticed, by winning things like what I'm doing. Having you in an edit that's getting 10,000 views, not something that your parents and a few other parents are seeing on a slope course, that mom is maybe filming on a GoPro.
It's All About the Money
The goal is to get these people that win the competitions winning by getting the most money. You're not getting some fake points, not a fucking trophy, there are no award ceremonies, there's a recognition ceremony, We don't have a judge, we have an auditor. I don't want this tied to [existing] comps, I want this to be something completely new.
It's a big bureaucracy, they don't get it, I get it. I know what's going on, I know the tricks, I know the people that should be auditing. Like Jeff Curry was the head auditor at Killington, and he did such a good job that I'll be basing everything I do off of that example. Just emphasizing the freestyleness, the looseness, and calling out tricks. $20 for this trick, $40 for that. It's just not something you see in skiing right now.
I want to scale this, I want to bring it to like 10 resorts a season. The idea is, in a joking way, to create a ranking system like FIS or USSA. I want to make fun of it. You look at the points system for all these stupid things, USSA and all that fake stuff, and I want to make a ranking based on money, money that you've won.
"I just need help."
I just need help. This can change a lot of things in skiing. Really what it comes down to is, skiing, snowboarding, pretty much everything in our lives right now seems meaningless, but when you look back at the roots, it's not. Skiing changes lives. Small things like me meeting Mike Nick at the Siver Sessions at Tenney Mountain and getting a women's t shirt that I wore for years. A series of events like that one changed the course of my life. It's all of these small things that add up to things like moving out West, or trying to start something with your friends. It's not even about trying to become a pro skier, just to have that passion to want to travel the world and see things that you never dreamed of skiing. Like I never thought I would go to Japan, China, Italy, or England, it never crossed my mind. But here I am, I'm doing it. All of this stuff that I just talked about, the competition and all that, it's the grassroots. Talking to these kids, it's these small, insignificant, things that can end up changing someone's life. In the grand scheme of things, I'm not curing cancer, I'm not getting rid of the Guinea Worm like Jimmy Carter, nothing that noble or altruistic, but I know that these small interactions with these kids, giving a kid a $10 bill, just feeling some worth in yourself through recognition of me saying something like "yo man, that was a sick trick," or something. It doesn't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme, but to those kids, it can be part of changing their life. They may pursue skiing and go to college out West when they wouldn't have. It's the small things I'm doing that make a skier a skier for life, and that is good for the industry.
A Long-Term Perspective on Helping Skiing Grow
These competitions, USSA and whatever, they're not going to help retention. The kids are going to go to college, and they're going to stop skiing. They're going to go on the weekends, maybe, and by their senior year they're not going to go anymore. They lose interest, they don't find the passion or flame that I'm trying to set in them by standing around in a start gate, or when it's 10 degrees and their mom is trying to tell them to do a cork 7 and they don't want to. That's not going to keep people skiing. All of these people, in high school, they play baseball, they run track, and stuff like that. By college, how many people are still doing that.
You don't have great memories from standing around in the cold trying to do this shitty competition when you don't want to be there, or you want to be skiing with your friends. Well this is an alternative right here. It's an alternative created by someone that knows what's going on, that is willing to literally travel around and talk to people, ski with them, and give them money. Everyone else [other pros] are just doing their own thing. It's great, but it's not necessarily giving back. Giving back isn't going to hurt anyone. If giving back isn't your thing, then that's fine, but in the long run I think it helps skiing in general.
I didn't start TAFT with a bunch of sponsors, I had the van and my credit card. Now here we are 5 years later and I'm continuing to keep the dream alive, continuing to set goals and see how far I can go with it.