Six months after parting ways with Salomon -- the only ski sponsor he'd ever had -- halfpipe star Simon Dumont has signed a three-year deal with Head that will take him through the 2014 Olympics.
Dumont, an eight-time Winter X Games medalist and one of the most influential freeskiers of his generation, signed the contract last week at the company's headquarters in Austria. His deal covers skis, boots and bindings and makes him the only pipe skier on Head's pro team, which is primarily comprised of racers, including fellow Americans and Olympic champions Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety.
"This process has been tough," said Dumont, 25, who spent much of the summer testing skis in the southern hemisphere. "We talked to a lot of people, a lot of people had interest, and I just really wanted to make sure that I tested a lot of skis and wherever I was going to go, I was going to have the best material and the best equipment because I think that should be my main focus. I'm not worried about finances as much at this stage, I just want to make sure my skis stay on my feet and I can go to the Olympics and feel really comfortable with whatever's underneath me."
Ironically, Dumont said that Ligety and Vonn's sweep of the season-opening World Cup races in Soelden, Austria, helped convince him to sign with Head, which backs some of the winningest skiers on the World Cup. "They're racers, but I think you can tie race skis and halfpipe skis together," Dumont said. "We're looking for speed, we're looking for something that can edge really well. Head pretty much opened up their entire race department for me, and that's very unique for the freeskiing world. They're ready to fully back me like I'm a World Cup racer. And they're an Austrian company, so I know what that means."
Dumont estimated he tested a dozen ski models over the summer from a handful of manufacturers, including Nordica and Coreupt, before settling on Head. Michael Spencer, Dumont's agent, said talks with the brand began in June and continued through the summer and fall. "It was really their ability to open up the race room and say, 'What ski do you need? We'll make it for you,'" Spencer said.
The deal marks a major change for Dumont, who signed with Salomon at age 14. "Last year was a tough year for me with equipment," Dumont said. "And my entire relationship with Salomon ... maybe it was the French and myself, but it just never really clicked that well."
When Salomon shifted its strategy to allocate more resources toward its backcountry products, "We decided not to prolong the contract with Simon," said Niclas Bornling, Salomon's global brand director. "We made that decision late [last] spring. It had nothing to do with his results." Bornling added: "Some people have said that Salomon is pulling out of park and pipe skiing, but nothing could be more wrong."
Dumont is the first big-name pipe or park skier to sign with Head since Jon Olsson switched his focus to racing. "We aren't doing this just to sign an athlete and have someone there for window dressing," said Jon Rucker, Head USA's sales and marketing director. "This isn't a short-term thing for us." Rucker said an international freeskiing product manager is expected to be hired in early 2012.
Said Dumont: "I'm happy where I am and I'm ready to hopefully leave skiing in an iconic fashion, with Head on my feet."