By John Clary Davies
They have similar names and already share the same acronym. From January 4 to 11 in Revelstoke, B.C., the Freeskiing World Tour and the Freeride World Tour will combine for the same event, too. The single competition for the two tours marks the beginning of a merger between the North American-based tour and the European-based tour.
"It's a place for us to start," Adam Comey, the president of Mountain Sports International, the group that markets the Freeskiing World Tour, said in an interview last night with Powder.com. "The bottom line, in the long term, is to create a worldwide, unified structure for big mountain freeriding."
While the Revelstoke stop will be the only combined competition for the 2012 season, the two entity's hope to combine to create a single tour, with a one world ranking and a single world champion by the 2013 season.
Still, a couple of challenges remain. The two tours have to create a schedule that fits the needs of the tours' athletes and European and North American ski resorts. They also need to secure sponsorship to fund the integrated tour.
This season, the Freeride World Tour will be without the support of Nissan, its top sponsor for the past four years. The auto company pulled its sponsorship after changes to its European marketing branch and a desire from its Japanese headquarters to move into mainstream sports, according to FWT Director of Marketing and Communications, Carl Williams.
According to Williams, the Nissan FWT expected a more volatile corporate sponsorship landscape three years ago and planned accordingly. As a result, the group developed partnerships with its ski area hosts and are less reliant on bigger contracts. Despite losing the auto-manufacturer's support, Williams insists the tour has as much momentum as ever.
"Our stated goal is to have the best riders on the best mountains," says Williams. "None of our top riders have pulled out, in fact to the contrary, we have a stronger demand than ever from riders to compete and that includes the likes of Candide Thovex, who we expect back on the tour in 2013."
Comey was confident that by combining their efforts, it will be easier for the unified tour to develop sponsorships.
"It's good business," said Comey. "But it's also right for the sport."