For U.S. Olympic hopefuls in freeskiing and snowboarding, the path to Sochi will ride through Breckenridge in December.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced last week that it has partnered with the Dew Tour, making the 2013 Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships a USSA-sanctioned event and one of five sites to be used to select athletes who will compete in the half-pipe and slopestyle for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Teams at the 2014 Winter Olympics in February.
“We couldn’t ask for a better way to kick off the Olympic selection series,” Jeremy Forster, USSA Freeskiing and Snowboarding director, said.
The partnership is a result of a cooperative effort between the USSA and Dew Tour organizers.
“It’s something that we’ve been exploring for a while,” Kenny Mitchell, the Dew Tour general manager, told the Daily.
Mitchell said that it was a project they attempted for the 2010 Olympic selection process, but were unable to work out the details.
Both sides agreed that it was a natural fit this time around.
“Their event series is a huge part of the action sports landscape,” Forster said of the Dew Tour. “There’s been a good working partnership to make it the best Olympic event series kickoff possible.”
The terms of the agreement will have little effect on the event itself, beyond guaranteeing that the best of the best will show up to participate.
Mitchell did say it may increase the field of competition by an estimated 30 percent to 60 percent, depending on discipline. In addition, all of the event’s judges will be International Olympic Committee qualified. But that won’t mean much change.
“Many of our judges were already IOC qualified,” Mitchell said.
And according to Forster, “the scoring was already fairly consistent.”
Another slight difference will be in athlete selection. As a USSA-sanctioned event, officials will handle invitations for all U.S. competitors, and Dew Tour organizers will determine which international athletes will participate.
For Mitchell and the Dew Tour, it’s clearly an honor to have been selected.
“We are a part of that process that helps to select the team, it’s very meaningful to us,” he said.
Officials at Breckenridge are equally excited.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have the Dew Tour at Breckenridge be a part of the Olympic selection process,” Breckenridge Resort communications manager Kristen Petitt-Stewart said.
The addition of the Dew Tour, Dec. 12-15, as an Olympic selection event will mean back-to-back weekends of Olympic-level competition in Summit County as Copper Mountain will host the first in the four-stop Sprint U.S. Grand Prix series the following weekend, Dec. 19-22. Copper will be the second of the five Olympic selection events for both slopestyle and halfpipe.
The other three stops in the Grand Prix will complete the five Olympic selection events.
Forster said that athletes’ best two results in the five competitions will be considered in the selection process.
Ski and snowboard slopestyle along with skier halfpipe are all new events for the winter Olympics.
Regarding adding the disiplines, Mitchell said,“we might find that freeskiing will be a really big star coming out of the Olympics.”
The rosters for the US Freeskiing Team will be announced Jan. 18 in Park City, Utah. The U.S. Snowboarding Olympic Team will be nominated the following day at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
The U.S. Alpine team will make its team announcements much earlier on Nov. 8-9, as a part of the team’s November training at the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain.