This August, in addition to traditional Southern Hemisphere summer camps, a collection of 40 U.S. teenaged freeriders and snowboarders headed to New Zealand for an historic Junior World Championship that represented the continuing evolution of our action sports.
In a first for the International Ski Federation (FIS), the Junior World Championships in snowboarding and freestyle were combined into one event drawing 325 athletes from 28 nations. Among the weeklong contests were ski cross and snowboardcross, ski and snowboarding slopestyle, plus ski and snowboarding halfpipe.
Just as freestyle and snowboarding changed the landscape of winter sports over the last two decades, freeride is evolving it yet again. Go to any resort in America and watch the action in the pipes and parks. It's skiers and snowboarders riding together. It's a new generation bringing thousands of kids into our sports. Snow parks are becoming an epicenter for skiers and snowboarders together.
Snow Sports New Zealand led the way in developing the summer showcase, with the FIS playing a key role. The FIS Freestyle Committee put rules and protocols in place to make the historic event possible. It was the first ever FIS ski slopestyle event, and the first World Championship level snowboarding slopestyle competition.
It's part of a progressive evolution of winter sports by the FIS spurred on by active national associations, including the USSA. Thanks to those efforts, winter sports have evolved and modernized in every Olympics since 1992, staying relevant with consumer interest worldwide. The International Olympic Committee is watching this closely, with ski halfpipe and snowboarding slopestyle being considered for 2014 this fall.
The key to the success of these events has been their connectivity to what's actually happening in the sport. It's what kids are doing at resorts and it's what spectators want to see and experience.
While the popularity of alpine and nordic skiing, along with the traditional events in freestyle and snowboarding, continues to thrive, the new disciplines are attracting more athletes and fans to winter sports, as well as new venues - especially in metro areas where snow parks can reach millions of potential participants.
The USSA is among a group of nations at the forefront of this evolution, working within the FIS to help evolve winter sports and push meaningful events to the IOC. This December, the USSA will take another step when both snowboarding and ski halfpipe athletes will share the venue with back-to-back events at our Visa U.S. Halfpipe Grand Prix in Copper Mountain in the 22-foot superpipe.
Hats off to Snow Sports New Zealand for its leadership and for the work undertaken by the FIS to make it happen! Millions of kids worldwide are finding our sport through pipes and parks. That's a strong point of consideration for the IOC which will meet to discuss ski halfpipe and snowboarding slopestyle next month. It's time those events come to the public as Olympic competitions.
Bill Marolt President and CEO U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association