The Winter Dew Tour makes its first stop of the season this week at Breckenridge, Colo., and the competitor field is stacked. But there are some athletes you won't be seeing: female skiers.
In addition, female snowboarders won't be at the Killington, Vt., stop of the tour.
For the first time on the Dew Tour, female skiers will receive equal prize money as the men, and they'll now be eligible for the annual Dew Cup award at the end of the tour, but the overall award will be a point average from their finishes at just two stops.
Female skiers, who competed in only two of the three Dew Tour stops last year as well, will compete at the Killington and Snowbasin, Utah, contests.
Female snowboarders, who appeared at all three stops last year, are invited to just two contests this time around: Breckenridge and Snowbasin.
"After every season, we look at every discipline and decide what is best to grow the sport," Dew Tour general manager Chris Prybylo said. "As far as women's snowboarding goes, looking at the results and participation levels, what we were seeing was that we weren't having strong participation across the snowboard disciplines, in particular with the top-level athletes."
According to Prybylo, 43 women snowboarders registered at the first stop, and of the 24 who ranked at the end of the tour, only six competed in all three stops. "We don't know why that was," Prybylo said. "Maybe scheduling conflicts? What we do know is that we want to to develop a platform for and opportunity for the best athletes to win the Dew Cup.
"Since not a lot of the elite-level girls competed in all three stops, we felt going to two stops would provide a less-demanding schedule and more of an opportunity to get the best athletes there, and give them a better opportunity to win the Cup."
Members of the female snowboarding community spoke out against the decision to cut women from a stop based on numbers, citing post-Olympic hangover, rather than lack of interest or scheduling conflicts, as the reason fewer women participated in all contests -- not just the Dew Tour -- last season.
Two-time TTR World Tour champion Jamie Anderson contends that the hangover also was limited to snowboard halfpipe competitors, and that most of the top snowboard slopestyle riders competed at all of the stops on the Dew Tour last year.
"There has always been a great number of top women riders competing -- veterans, and young fresh riders," Anderson said. "I don't think its going to 'progress the sport' by taking away events from the women. I used to be really stoked on the Winter Dew Tours, but [this] really changes my opinion. It's almost 2012 -- treat male and female athletes fairly."
Women's ski events "were an invitational and a demo in years past, so we don't have the data to show if they would show up to all three events or not," Prybylo said. "We know that they're excited to be a bigger part of the tour and we will continue to talk to the athletes moving forward to see how to best grow this side of the event."
"It's a bummer that we're not being included in [the Colorado] stop," skier Anna Segal said. "But the Dew Tour is taking positive steps by giving girls freeskiing a Dew Cup and equal prize money in the second and final stops."
Said skier Jen Hudak: "Though we are not in the first stop of the Dew Tour this year, it is still the best situation that women skiers have had. We have equal prize money at two stops and we have a Dew Cup for the overall. It's just a shame that it took taking a step back for the snowboarders to take a step forward for us."
This weekend, the men's ski halfpipe and men's and women's snowboard halfpipe finals take place Saturday, with the men's ski slopestyle and men's and women's snowboard slopestyle finals Sunday.