What the FWT merger means

Drew Tabke competing at the Revelstoke stop of the Freeskiing World Tour last year. Mike Schirf/Freeskiing World Tour

[Editor's note: Drew Tabke is the 2011 Subaru Freeskiing World Tour overall champion. For more on the merger of the Freeskiing World Tour and the Freeride World Tour, check out this story.]

The North America-based Subaru Freeskiing World Tour is announcing this week that their Jan. 6-8 big-mountain contest -- the Canadian Freeskiing Championships in Revelstoke, BC -- will also serve as a world tour stop for the Swiss-based Freeride World Tour. This means that the contest will include athletes from both tours.

Organizers of the two tours have been in discussions to create a unified tour for some time now. The two tours first came together for the North American Freeskiing Championships at Kirkwood, Calif., last February. And their collaboration will go beyond just the Revelstoke contest. Top-ranked Freeskiing World Tour athletes will be invited to the Freeride World Tour's final event on the famed Bec des Rosses in Verbier, Switzerland, next March. The Freeskiing World Tour also plans to adopt the Freeride World Tour's tiered event ranking system, which assigns 3, 4, or 5-star rankings to approved events worldwide, awarding the athletes points that count toward each tour's world title.

"For so many years our work has been all about growing the sport of freeskiing," says Adam Comey, president of MSI, the Freeskiing World Tour's parent organization. "Now we're to a point where we want to organize it into higher quality, elite events organized under the global tier system."

But fans and athletes -- including myself -- have to wonder: What does this collaboration mean? There are still two distinct world tours and two world champions at the end of each year. For me, when I won the Freeskiing World Tour championship title in 2011, it felt oddly incomplete. Why? Because until these global events have one unified ranking system and one world title, I don't feel that either can claim to crown a legitimate world champion.

Right now, the only way to claim "world champ" status is to win both world tours. Last year's Freeskiing World Tour women's champion Angel Collinson plans to attempt just that this year, a feat unsuccessfully attempted by Julien Lopez in 2010. I asked MSI's Comey if creating a single world title was part of the plan and he said that although there isn't a specific date for implementing this, that it is part of their long-term plan and could happen as soon as 2013.

Until then, we'll have two sets of champions and two tours attempting to work together as one.