Gatorade Winter Free Flow Tour KICKS OFF
Amateur Tour of Dew Tour Starts This Weekend in Pennsylvania
Words: Justin Broglio
Three years ago, Chaz Ortiz earned a wildcard spot into the AST Dew Tour that forever changed his career as a professional skateboarder. At age 15, Ortiz now holds three Dew Tour firsts, a Dew Cup, contracts with industry leading sponsors and the support of several thousand fans. Thanks to a Gatorade Free Flow Tour amateur contest held in his home town of Chicago, Ortiz's grassroot talent was showcased on a national level and helped him cross the line from am to pro.
On Saturday, Jan. 9, and for the next 30 days at 10 events stretching from the pipes of Vermont to the sun-baked parks of California hundreds of amateur freeskiers and snowboarders will have their chance at crossing that line.
"This is a natural extension for the Free Flow platform," says Free Flow Tour director of marketing and communications BJ Carretta. "We wanted to put something in place to foster the growth of talent in the winter scene, just like we've seen in the summer with kids like Ortiz."
Sentiments echoed this fall during the official launch of the tour by Gatorade action sports team manager Kenny Mitchell. "Being able to bring amateurs in snowboarding and freeskiing the same stepping stone to the pros we offer skateboarders and BMX riders through the summer Free Flow Tour is something we are really excited about."
Each of the amateur winter tour stops will boast winners from slope and/or pipe in both men's and women's snowboard and combined gender freeski (something female freeskiers are hoping Free Flow organizers will change to both men's and women's next year, following recent letter writing campaign induced changes to the Winter Dew Tour). The winners will each be flown to the tour finals, taking place in conjunction with the Winter Dew Tour's Toyota Championship on February 5-7 at Mount Snow.
Encompassing the “Flow to Pro” theme that is the cornerstone of the Gatorade Free Flow Tour, the overall freeski superpipe and slopestyle champions and the two overall snowboard superpipe and slopestyle champions will earn a spot to compete against the pros at the first stop of the 2010-11 season Winter Dew Tour.
"It's pretty much just the most amazing situation ever offered," says South Lake Tahoe amateur freeskier Jason Aarons, who has spent the last 10 years of his two decades on snow chasing the pro dream. "We drive all over the place every year spending hundreds on as many competitions as possible with little chance at the major televised events. This tour is finally going to give up and coming riders the chance to shine on the national level."
Aarons will likely be joined by several hundred other riders at the California tour stops thanks to two progressive moves on Gatorade and AST's part--a $20 entry fee to all Free Flow events and a 21-year-old age limit for all contestants. Add to that several mountains nationwide cutting back on big-ticket, sponsored park comps and USASA registrations averaging over $100 per event and the Free Flow model looks pretty attractive.
"In a tough economy certain things can go away," says Carretta. "Like your big hometown comps. Thanks to unbelievable sponsors like Gatorade, who really believe in investing in these local kids, we're able to do it right and keep it all under the Dew umbrella with a direct extension into the pro level."
Although the Winter Free Flow Tour will not award sanctioned USASA points the connection to the world of Alli Sports, NBC and Fuel TV broadcasts offers amateur slope and pipe skiers something not seen in terms of "next level status" since the days of local X Games qualifiers and Olsson/Dumont's Paul Mitchell North American Open.
In addition to the main contests, each stop of the Gatorade Free Flow Tour will also include a Junior Jam division, open to all competitors 13 and under. The Junior Jam will take place prior to each of the Gatorade Free Flow Tour's Open Division competitions, giving young amateurs valuable contest experience.
To register for the Free Flow Winter Tour click over to www.AlliSports.com
Schedule of Events
January 9 - Big Boulder Ski Area Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania (slope)
January 9-10 - Vail Ski Resort Vail, Colorado (pipe & slope)
January 16-17 - Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area Mount Horeb, Wisconsin (pipe & slope)
January 17 - Mountain High Resort Wrightwood, California (slope)
January 23-24 - Killington Resort Killington, Vermont (pipe & slope)
January 23-24 - Keystone Resort Keystone, Colorado (pipe & slope)
January 23-24 - Bear Mountain Resort Big Bear Lake, California (pipe & slope)
January 30 - Brighton Resort Brighton, Utah (slope)
January 30-31 - Loon Mountain Resort Lincoln, New Hampshire (pipe & slope)
January 30-31 - Mammoth Mountain Ski Area Mammoth Lakes, California (pipe & slope)
February 5-7 - Gatorade Free Flow Tour Finals @ Mount Snow Resort West Dover, Vermont (pipe & slope)