At the Big Air event in Civic Center Park in Denver on January 25th, 2011, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced that it is launching a freeskiing team, and partnering with The North Face to outfit them.
“It will be called US Freesking,” Tom Kelly, the USST vice president of communications said of the new group of athletes the team will be sponsoring and developing. “We wanted to create something that would be different than the skiing and snowboard teams — something built around slopestyle and halfpipe competitions — and that’s when we started working on forming this brand.”
Kelly added that idea developed out of the International Olympic Committee’s aggressive approach to add halfpipe and slopestyle skiing, as well as slopestyle snowboarding, to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. He said that although the new disciplines have yet to be officially added to the schedule, “That decision will be made after the decision by Jacques Rogge (president of the IOC), but the IOC Executive Board has already given him a green light.”
In-house, the USST organized a focus group to look at forming the new team, with valuable input from freeskier Jen Hudak, one of the world’s top halfpipe skiers and a resident of Salt Lake City, just down the road from the team’s Park City headquarters. Once the decision was made to go ahead, the USST started talking with The North Face about sponsoring the program.
“The program with TNF is interesting,” said Kelly. “They’re very interested in investing in this area, and as you know, this segment of the industry is booming. We will be announcing Tuesday that we have signed an eight-year deal with them.”
The USST partners with Spyder — which Kelly said has also signed a new eight-year deal — to outfit the Alpine Team, and Burton apparel for snowboarding. Kelly said that as far as creating a World Cup level circuit for slopestyle and halfpipe skiing, for now those events will be integrated with snowboarding’s Grand Prix series, which already made a stop in Copper Mountain, Colorado in December, and will hit Mammoth Mountain this spring.
With the ink just dry on the deal, and the official announcement still to be made this afternoon, Kelly said that specifics such as just what the uniforms might look like and which athletes will be on the inaugural freeskiing team will be forthcoming. – Peter Kray
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