The current state of freestyle skiing is traveling back in time. Not trick wise, but rather in mind set. Freestyle Skiing also referred as “freeskiing”; when freeskiing first became a thing it was due to mogul skiers wanting to desert the competition scene due to heavy regulations to start skiing for themselves. With Freestyle Skiing securing it’s place in the Winter Olympics in two divisions Slopestyle and Halfpipe, the most publicized aspect of the sport is under heavy regulation from the FIS. Oh you don’t think regulation is heavy think again. The FIS online library features fifteen documents of regulations for Ski Halfpipe and Slopestyle alone, it is safe to say our sport a slipped back into the clutches of regulation. With the publicity of the Winter Olympics behind Freestyle Skiing, the mindset of regulated freeskiing is becoming the norm.
Businesses in the ski world are starting to take freeskiing very seriously. Ski academies such as Carrabrasset Valley Academy (CVA) and Killington Mountain School (KMS) are now offering Freestyle Skiing programs, attempting to groom their skiers to be X-Games and Olympic caliber. With freeskiing being taken so seriously, many people are starting to loose sight of why we left the mogul field, to have fun with your friends and skiing for ourselves.
However, all hope is not lost because we have people like Andy Parry, Andy is the coordinator behind the Tell A Friend Tour. For the past four years Andy heads back east from Utah for the holidays in the iconic Line Traveling Circus Van.
After the holidays and New Years have passed, Andy gets back in the van and begins Tell A Friend Tour. The mission of Tell A Friend Tour is; to show young skiers on the East Coast and Midwest what freeskiing is truly about, having a good time with your friends.
I was lucky enough to get to cruise along with Andy and the rest of the Tell A Friend Tour crew for the first two legs of the tour. The program of Tell A Friend is something very similar a skateboard team demo tour. Andy and his crew arrive at mountain, ski around for a few hours, run after run more and more skiers notice the Andy and the rest Tell A Friend crew and by 11am we would have a posse of twenty plus skiers of all ages. Once the posse is in full force Andy picks feature for the whole posse to session together until it is time for the highlight of the stop, free pizza.
Two stops that really stand out in my mind were Bolton Valley and Cannon Mountain. When we first rolled up to Bolton the park was not in the usual spot at the base of the mountain, my concerns grew thinking to myself “I wonder if they forgot about us? Bolton opened two days ago do they even have enough snow to build a park?”. Luckily Bolton did not for get about us; their park crew relocated park to very gradual and secluded trail mid mountain. The location change was a great move, the pitch of the trail was steep enough do give speed to hit all the features; yet it didn’t feel like you were summiting Mount Everest every time you hiked back up to the top of the park. A small yet unique selection features kept everyone entrained for the whole day, the lift cable feature was definitely the highlight of the day. The pizza at the end of the day was by far best and most plentiful of my two-leg journey with Tell A Friend Tour.
On January 9th Charlie Dayton and I left Burlington at 7am, headed for Cannon Mountain. Neither of us had ever been to Cannon, luckily a few of our friends had grown up skiing there. After asking our friends what they thought about Cannon our hopes were very low on what Cannon had to offer. Until we took our first chair ride up everything changed; looming in the distance was their early season terrain park. The terrain park was small about the size of a footfall field, and was loaded with rails, bonks and hips giving it that unmistakable skatepark vibe. Once the kids started showing up, they kept on coming. By 11am the park was filled with sea of at least 40 skiers from all over New Hampshire and Maine. With a unique selection of features and large group skiers they day flew by. At the end of the day while eating pizza in the lodge, I could tell by the smiles on everyone’s faces the day could not have gone much better.
Events like Tell A Friend Tour need to continue to be happening in the freeskiing world. A win-win for all four parties involved: attendees (young skiers), riders, mountains and especially sponsoring brands. The young skiers get to ski with and meet their internet hero’s, something very unattainable for young skiers living on the east coast due to lack of major events such as Winter Dew Tour and Winter X Games. The young skiers are also shown by the Tell A Friend Tour crew that you do not need to be out at Breckenridge or Park City to enjoy and progress the sport. The riders on tour get to spend their time doing what they love, having fun skiing and traveling all around the world with their friends. Mountains receive earned media in the form of photos,videos and write ups shared from Tell A Friend Tour; and it’s affiliates riders on social media and freeskiing news outlet Newschoolers. However, the greatest benefit from Tell A Friend Tour goes to the sponsoring brands, because they are getting direct exposure to their target market. Sponsoring companies help fund the tour budget and/or giving product in-kind for prizes, in return for direct exposure. Everyone wins, with such a symbiotic relationship for all parties involved the Tell A Friend Tour cannot fail, unless of course the Traveling Circus Van breaks down again.