Athletes attending the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championship in Breckenridge this year will have extra motivation in an already highly competitive event. For the first time in its history, the Dew Tour is an Olympic qualifying event, and the first of the season. That means the outcomes of the Dew Tour competitions will have a part in determining who goes with the U.S. team to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this February and who stays home.
There will be four other Olympic qualifying events after the Dew Tour.
“Our partnership with the USSA (U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association) to become a selection event for the ski team has certainly elevated the Dew Tour to new heights,” said Chris Prybylo, vice president of events for the Dew Tour. “I’m looking forward to this being the best Dew Tour we’ve had yet; it has the most meaning when it comes to impact on the athletes.”
This is the sixth year that the Dew Tour will be held in Breckenridge. The events, which include superpipe and slopestyle for freeskiing and snowboarding, are free and open to the public, taking place at Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 8. Competition will last throughout the week, ending on Sunday, Dec. 16, with men’s freeski slopestyle and snowboard slopestyle finals.
“We’re really excited to be hosting this event again, especially this year, with the importance that this event has with the road toward the 2014 Olympics,” said Kristen Petitt Stewart, senior communications manager for Breckenridge Ski Resort.
Even before it became an Olympic qualifying event, the Dew Tour drew the top athletes in freeskiing and snowboarding from across the nation and around the world. This year, 250 athletes will compete, and 42 of them are 18 years old or younger.
Shaun White is returning to the Dew Tour this year, and will keep company with several other Olympic riders, including Scotty Lago of New Hampshire and Louie Vito of Utah. The women’s side features two-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark and fellow Olympian Gretchen Bleiler, from Aspen.
On the freeskiing side, attendees can watch Breck’s own Bobby Brown, who in 2009 won the Dew Tour’s first slopestyle competition. Brown will join competitors like Nick Groepper, as well as Devin Logan and Keri Herman on the women’s side. This year, Herman was the first American woman to win the World Cup slopestyle title, after winning the opening Olympic qualifying period slopestyle World Cup event in Argentina and the Copper U.S. VISA Grand Prix World Cup event.
“We’ve got so many great Breckenridge athletes involved in this event, so it’s fun to support our hometown athletes,” Petitt Stewart said.
Although many of the competitors know one another from previous events, there are several pairs (and one trio) who are even closer — they’re related by blood. Six sets of siblings will share the hill in this year’s Dew Tour, from Taylor Gold and his little sister Arielle to Oregonians Ben and Gabe Ferguson facing off for the snowboard superpipe.
The Wells family, from New Zealand, will see three of its members out on the slopes — Jossi, Byron and Beau-James. Two other sibling pairs share the special bond of athlete and head coach. Ben Bright will be coaching his younger sister Torah, while Kimmy Sharp will be taking advice from her twin sister, Jessie. “Everyone’s really focused, out there trying to put it all together, working really hard. It’s definitely a higher level of intensity, but that’s just what happens when you put the Olympics into this season,” said Tricia Byrnes, press officer for the U.S. Freeskiing Team. However, the athletes are finding time for a little play and relaxation despite all their work, she added. “There’s a lot of downtime between riding. Everyone’s hanging out, trying to keep it light and fun.”
All athletic events at the Dew Tour are free and accessible from the base of Peak 8. Attendees can obtain free foot passenger tickets for the Rip’s Ride chairlift.
“It’s a great opportunity locally to see the international competition that’s headed to Russia this year,” Petitt Stewart said. “So you basically get to see an Olympic preview for free right here.”
In addition to the sporting events, there will be a film, a concert and an in-town event.
“The atmosphere definitely spills over into town with the nighttime events and the concert,” Petitt Stewart added. “It’s a great way to experience Breckenridge and one of the world’s best action-sports events together.”
This means that it’s not just the mountain that gets the excitement and benefit from the Dew Tour, said Rachel Zerowin, public relations manager for the Breckenridge Resort Chamber.
“Dew Tour has done a really good job of engaging with the local community, and that in turn has an even more positive economic impact on the town as well as on the mountain,” she said.
The feeling is mutual, according to Prybylo.
“Breckenridge has just been such a perfect fit for us,” he said. “We like to kick off the season here with (Breckenridge’s) weather conditions. … (There are) so many things that Breckenridge brings to the table above and beyond just the competition. It’s really something we’ve grown and continue to grow throughout the years, and Breckenridge has been a perfect format to allow us to do that.”
Krista Driscoll contributed to this article.
“It’s a great opportunity locally to see the international competition that’s headed to Russia this year. So you basically get to see an Olympic preview for free right here.”
Kristen Petitt Stewart
Communications manager for Breckenridge Ski Resort