Editor's Note: In honor of International Women's Day, we here at Teton Gravity Research are going through the archives to find some of our favorite content that celebrates the women in our industry. The FWT's equal pay announcement was HUGE for 2020 and hopefully signals that gender inequality will be a thing of the past in action sports.
2020 is all about equality for the Freeride World Tour. FWT Photo.
This month, when the Freeride World Tour athletes drop from the Hakuba start gate, they’ll all be competing for the same cash prize—male or female. The Freeride World Tour is setting a new standard at the dawn of a new decade: equal pay regardless of gender. It’s a progressive step forward for female freeriding, and the FWT hopes it will elevate the next generation of freeriders. On top of gender parity in pay, the FWT has created a new program, Girls Just Wanna Have Pow, to mentor upcoming female athletes. Young skiers and snowboarders can register at a variety of stops on the tour to ride with legends like Arianna Tricomi, Jacqueline Pollard, Marion Haerty, and more.
This decision marks a turning point for freeriding, which has long been a male-dominated sport. In an interview for Jackson Hole Snowboarding Magazine, freeride snowboarding pioneer Julie Zell recounted to me the struggles women faced during the early days of the sport.
Julie Zell broke ground for women's snowboarding with three wins at the Valdez big mountain freeride competion, The King and Queen of the Hill. TGR Archives
On top of the inadequate gear and limited sponsorships, prize money was laughably disproportionate. When she competed at the 1996 Verbier Xtremes, a precursor for the FWT stop at Verbier, a male snowboarder won $4,000 for third place. His prize purse was $1,000 more than her first place winnings. Meanwhile, the female third-place winner didn’t even win money, Zell remembered her walking away with a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates. Thankfully, now female competitors don’t have to worry about covering their travel expenses or bills with a fancy bottle of vino. Instead, men and women will now win the same prize money across all categories.
FWT competitors are elated to see the change. Marion Haerty, Two-time Snowboard Women World Champion, said, "I’ve been competing since the age of 10, I have been able to observe positive developments so that women, too, have the means to create their dreams in this discipline. For my part, I was lucky to be surrounded by incredible men who served as role models and encouraged me to keep progressing. I hope that this sends a message of empowerment to the next generations.” And it’s not just the women who are excited, the men are on board too. Drew Tabke, Two-time Ski Men World Champ, spoke up saying, “I believe it’s the right move, as I’m confident it will push performance levels while growing worldwide participation of women in Freeride.”
The FWT joins other notable action sport entities like WSL and Crankworx by introducing equal pay. Left: Scott Robarts Photo. Right: WSL Photo.
This milestone is not isolated to the world of skiing, and in the last decade, we’ve witnessed exciting leaps and bounds for gender equality in action sports as a whole. Last year, the WSL made history by introducing equal pay within a sport that at times paid female surfers 10 percent of what male athletes earned. In 2015, the Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival implemented equal payouts and shared podiums for its awards. The goal? To show the biking community that male and female champions should be treated equally.
Both sporting entities are thinking beyond just equal pay, and taking steps to make a change that benefits more than just their athletes. The WSL and Crankworx have created their own female-focused initiatives, Rising Tides and Shifting Perceptions, to create change beyond the competition venue for upcoming lady shredders in their respective sports. With the FWT following suit, it brings the action sports community one step closer to complete parity between genders.
Kai Jones’ progression in big mountain skiing isn’t slowing down, with the young gun spending the better part of the winter stacking clips in Jackson and Montana for the upcoming TGR film. To cap off the season, he just pulled off a descent that he’s been dreaming of for his entire life: skiing off the summit of the Grand Teton. Inspired by generations of legendary skiers in Jackson Hole, Kai teamed up with his close friend and mentor Tim Durtschi, as well as Jackson Hole Mountain Guides'
The ski industry has lost a legend. Last Thursday, Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing announced that their founder Mike Wiegele had passed away at the age of 82. For the last 50 years, Wiegele’s name was synonymous with the best feeling in the world: skiing bottomless, untouched powder. In 1970 this humble farm boy from Austria offered his first-ever heli guided ski trip in Valemont, BC. It was a wild and revolutionary idea, but Wiegele was certain that it would take hold despite the lack of initial
The Brett Tippie Podcast If you're a mountian biker, you probably already know who Brett Tippie is. The boisterous, fun loving, "Director of Goodtimes", is a member of the MTB Hall of Fame who kicked off his career pioneering freeride mountain biking in the mid '90s. Appearing in ground shattering films like, "Kranked", and traveling the globe with the worlds first freeride team, "The Froriders", Brett established himself as one of the biggest stars in the sport. Over the last 25 years