Photos: Laura Obermeyer
Tell a Friend Tour 2019 kicked off its SEVENTH year in Killington, VT this weekend. By now, you’re probably familiar with the tour where Andy Parry and his skier friends visit hills across the country, meet kids and actually ski with them. Possibly the most passionate man in skiing says that this interaction is so vital to, not only the tour but the ski industry in general:
“You can flip through a magazine or an Instagram post in seconds, not even seconds, half a second. If it’s a super sick trick or shot maybe you’ll remember it, but you definitely won’t remember a fucking ad."
"...But you will remember telling LJ Strenio to do a double backflip at Horseshoe Ontario and him doing it in front of you. If I give a kid a high five for landing something new, maybe they won’t remember it forever, but they’ll remember it for years to come.”
It all ties into the big scheme of KEEP PEOPLE SKIING. Of course, Andy wants to get new skiers, but also to keep people skiing.
“It’s like with a job, it’s easier to keep a person than to fire them and train a new person. But if people are already skiing, you just have to keep them skiing, that’s been a huge goal of the Tell A Friend Tour. It’s kind of a long -term event, we’re seven years in now.”
That ‘big scheme’ of keeping people skiing stems from something as simple as just time passing: "The bulk of freeskiers, my generation, and the generation before me, they’re in their thirties right now..."
"If they keep skiing, those people, whether they’re in their twenties, thirties or whatever, for the rest of their lives, they’ll identify themselves as freeskiers or freestyle skiers."
"Sure, maybe they won’t be doing cork 7s or whatever, but they’ll think about going to the park and hitting a box or they’ll identify as a freestyle skier or freeskier in some way because that’s how they were raised or that’s where the nostalgia came from. That good feeling comes from hanging out with your friends when you were younger. Everyone strives to have that.”
He recognizes that those freeskiers are going to move out to the older end and they will have kids of their own, who they’ll want to share their experiences with:
“The whole economy of who identifies as a freeskier, and whatever you want to take that as, is only going to grow. It’s grown over the last couple of years, it’s been growing, there hasn’t really been a slowdown of people who identify as freeskiers.”
Andy founded the tour in 2012, but skiing has been changing his life since way before that. He talks about a conversation he had with LJ as they brought the new Tell A Friend van across the country to the East Coast:
“Where would I be without skiing? Where would I be without all those small dots and breadcrumbs leading me to where I am now?”
Things like; meeting one of his heroes, Mike Nick, at the Cyber Sessions, has been an inspiration for the tour, as well as watching skiers like Dave Chrichton in movies like Session 1242 and Forward.
“17 years ago, that I met Dave Chrichton at New York State X Games and he said that my cork 7s were sick. They weren’t, I landed backseat on all of them. That resonated so hard with me."
The realness of physically meeting someone you watch on TV or in edits is such an emotional thing that resonates with you:
”I’ve said this before: I’m not a doctor, I’m not a crazy humanitarian who’s saving people’s lives, but I genuinely think that skiing saved my life. It gave me such a great outlook, friends and experiences. It’s given me so much that to think about not having it is f*cking depressing.
“Even if a kid doesn’t go on to try and be a pro skier, or whatever the hell me and my friends are, they’re going to want to go out to Colorado or somewhere. They will have a group of friends that they wouldn’t have had otherwise without skiing. They’re going to be fitter, they’re going to be into outdoor activities. They’ll be more likely to try rock climbing and try to stay fit because that’s part of the culture. You don’t see many fat skiers.
“It’s Monday, you don’t want to be at work or school, you’re busting your ass, you might be stressed because someone in your family has cancer or something. It’s an escape, that is a huge emotional thing. Escaping to something that’s productive, something that you enjoy. This is a huge thing for me and I think it is for everyone, people go to movies to escape from reality, this is escaping from the mundane society of 9-5, going to school, ‘you have to do this, or you have to do that.’ Skiing and freeskiing is an escape from that. Skiing puts a smile on your face. Making a turn, doing a slash, doing your first backflip. Mike Hornbeck used to say; "you get a kid to do his first backflip or go upside down, you just fundamentally changed their life.”
More than a few lives changed this past weekend at Killington. The crew was rolling deep.
It all ties back into what Andy wants to do with the tour: “People like Khai, Will and LJ, I want to bring it to them. I want to get that big breadcrumb, put it right in front of them and get them to follow it, so they can maybe make this a lifetime pursuit.”
In previous years, he has got messages and comments telling them how inspirational they are. Andy’s too modest to admit that, but he does see the difference that the tour makes:
“I’m just a f*cking skier, but people see what you’re doing, and it inspires them. That is the biggest thing I can try to emphasize- inspiration. Inspiring people to do things, to do great things.
“It can pull you out of depression, it can give your life meaning. If you’re stuck in a 9-5, skiing on the weekends can give your life meaning. It’s such an important thing to have in our society. It’s a physical outdoor activity that you share with a peer group. A lot of people find it hard to connect, early in life, later in life, to make friends. It was for me, I had such a hard time as a kid and I had some really severe emotional problems. Sh*t wasn’t easy for me and it’s not easy for a lot of people. Skiing just helped give me so much that I want to give it back.”
Videos, movies, segments, urban parts and competitions, all have their place in skiing. “It's so individually goal-oriented when you’re doing that stuff though. You want to get the shot for your segment, your video part, like that’s the end. It’s just one of those little breadcrumbs to making a lifelong skier. For Khai, Will and LJ to take time out of their season, to go around and just meet kids and talk them, that’s what needs to happen more in skiing.”
Andy is the only guy driving around these ski resorts and doing this, but he’d love to see it happen more:
“Even if it doesn’t happen more, just come on tour with me! Stop hitting an urban rail for one second and come shake a kid’s hand. Then go back to the rail. It is so important to the survival of freeskiing that the tour and stuff happens."
"It’s imperative to keep everything in check. So that everything doesn’t move to a structured, sterile environment, where kids are judged and based on their f*cking points. First of all, that’s not freeskiing and second, that’s not going to make them a lifelong skier."
"A lot of people move out of sport after high school, particularly people who do organized high school sports like basketball, baseball and stuff like that. When they’re in college and later in life, their time’s taken up by other things, it’s hard to put in your time to go to training, go to practice, join a team and all that stuff. You have to have a coach, you have to have a team, you have to be certified, the coach has to be certified. Who has the time?"
Andy's concern is that the same is increasingly true in freeskiing. People are leaving the sport as they get older, which wasn't the case so often in his generation. He puts it down to the following:
"In your leisure time, you want to go do something that’s fun. I want skiing to stay fun. Sitting in a start-gate, when it’s f*cking freezing cold before having throw some insane trick... I know to some people that’s fun but not for most of us. For FIS World Cup events, you have to have a coach with you to even compete in the event in the first place. That is not freeskiing anymore.”
What the Tell A Friend Tour aims to do, is to keep people skiing for the rest of their lives because it’s good for skiing. It’s good for the resorts, it’s good for the ski manufacturers, it’s good for the apparel companies, it’s good for the sponsored athletes, it’s good for everyone.
Skiing gave Andy Parry a purpose, and he just wants to share it with everyone. For him, the goal of the tour is simple:
“Get people skiing, keep them skiing and having fun.”
To find your local Tell A Friend Tour Stop, and more information about the tour, click here. Next stop is Ski Sundown