FIS Takes Over the Freeride World Tour

FIS has taken over the FWT. Has the competition sold its soul?

FIS and freeride World Tour logos over letterbox of rocky mountain background

The International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) has bought the Freeride World Tour (FWT), though the transaction terms ‘remain confidential’.

On 8 December the CEO of the FWT, Nicolas Hale-Woods, announced that there would be a change of ownership with FIS planning to bring massive growth potential to the Tour, uniting all the skiing and snowboarding disciplines, developing it on a broader stage.

Being a part of FWT and seeing the sport develop over so many years makes this feel like a natural next step to take. It will be interesting to see where it leads us and I think it will bring more recognition to the sport and all the benefits that come with it.

 Nicolas Hale-Woods (FWT CEO)

The FWT is the global circuit for big mountain skiing and riding, where events see riders take on legendary mountain faces on seemingly impossible lines, styling the run to score points. It’s got to be one of the gnarliest sporting competitions out there.

FIS is the governing body for international skiing and snowboarding, founded in 1924 during the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix. Responsible for the Olympic disciplines of Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle skiing, it sets international competition rules.

“FWT brings a highly professional tour that offers breath-taking action and an entirely new element of skiing and snowboarding to FIS,” says Johan Eliasch, FIS President of the takeover.

Although FIS may be better resourced to organise, run and monetise FWT events, the soul of the competition and of big mountain skiing in general doesn’t exactly line up with the more organised, bureaucratic structure of FIS sports.

You only have to read the comments below the announcement on social media platforms to get the picture of how the news is received in the freestyle world, among both FWT fans and athletes. Concerns are over rules, regulations, safety, even drug testing.

Pro skiers Richard Permin, Paddy Graham, Sam Smoothy, Chris Rubens, Markus Eder, Fabien Maierhofer, Joss Christensen have also commented. Even from within FIS, US Freeskiing Slopestyle athlete Alex Hall has expressed regret.

“I hope they don’t forget the freeride in freeride!” one comment reads.

New Zealand FWT skier Sam Smoothy writes: “Main question would be why, followed by can you back out of it,” also writing, “It’s not April fools is it?”

The consensus from freeriding fans is that FIS will institutionalise big mountain skiing and snowboarding, changing it in the same way that other freestyle snowsports – moguls and freestyle, for example – did after becoming FIS disciplines.

Pro skier Connery Lundin comments: “This makes one thing clear, there is 100% room for new/different freeride competition circuit. For the sake of our sport I hope it comes back to the culture created in the original Freeskiing World Tour competitions”.

With eyes how FIS regulates the FWT without changing its very being, we also better keep them peeled for another potential new comp on the block…

The two organisations will join forces starting this season, Winter 22/23.

This might be the right moment to link Ritsch’s Roll, a recently released ski video produced by freestyle skier Tom Ritsch featuring a host of other pro skiers. In this highly entertaining, spoof big air event you can’t help but notice that it is some kind of commentary, poking fun at the state of competitions these days: