Whether you love them or loathe them, competitions in skiing are struggling. There are signs the whole concept of progressing a career through competition is falling apart from the bottom up. The majority of remaining events are monopolised by AFP and FIS, with smaller slopestyle events and true 'Opens' few and far between. It's now somewhere between very difficult and impossible to make your way to the top of the comp game without the support of a national federation, simply because it costs far, far too much.
"Who cares?" I hear you ask and more importantly "why do you care? You hate comps anyway". Which is a fair reaction, I don't basically like competitions because I don't think creative activity can be quantitively judged. But at the same time I do understand that competitions are, and probably always will be, the primary exhibition of our sport to the wider public, something which the uninitiated can understand. As that exhibition, I feel they should represent contemporary skiing. Yet the top is stagnating and the stepping stones to reach it are fewer, further between and more expensive to cross. To minimize this stagnation and competition skiing's already high barriers to entry, those stepping stones cannot all be uniform events controlled by outdated federations with their associated rules and costs.
Enter Andy Parry, opinionated and outspoken but undeniably down for the grassroots of the sport. For the last 5 years Tell A Friend Tour has been bringing the industry and its professionals back to those who it so often forgets. This year Andy and Newschoolers are taking the first steps towards adding competitions into the stops for the skiers the rigid federated structure has left behind. Two of the stops, Killington and Chestnut, will feature Tell A Friend Tour competitions.
He was typically forthcoming with his motivation when I spoke to him about the move. "I think the current status quo of mainstream comps is bullshit and I want to bring it back to the skiers. Coaches, membership fees, moms in the start gate, points etc all distract from the skiing. They also create a bureaucracy that costs money to run, and in the end makes competing cost even more."
The ultimate aim of the new series is to reward the skiers with the most important currencies within skiing: opportunity, exposure and err... currency. "Everything I want to do is based in cash and on helping the skiers get sponsors, spots in bigger comps, or chances to film with companies. I want to help the next generation move forward and have fun doing it", Andy told me.
So how does the comp itself work? All entrants take part in the morning session, judged by the TAFT pros and focusing on trick challenges, feature challenges and all manner of other inventions from the creative minds involved. Every mini-event will be different and each' comes with a marked cash prize. Then in the middle of the day lunch happens, cash winnings are counted and the top earners progress to a final showdown on a selected feature or set of features. All of which culminates in a winner (or winners), who takes home the remainder of the cash. It's loose, it's free and it actually sounds pretty fun.
The first ever event is at Killington this Sunday, so if you're in the area, make sure to get down there and check it out. It's only $20 to enter, there is $3k in cash plus all entry takings in the prize pot and the winner will also have a dedicated feature right here on NS.