In an historic announcement, the Freeride World Tour has announced equal cash prizes for winning athletes across gender categories. The move aims not only to reward male and female athletes equally for the risks they assume and their performances during competitions, but also to encourage future generations of female freeriders. On top of equal prize money, the Tour has also launched a new female-oriented freeride mentorship program, Girls Just Want To Have Pow.
This move by the FWT indicates a welcome shift towards inclusivity. Prize money parity makes professional freeride careers more attainable for women athletes, who’ve traditionally received far less competition payouts and financial support from sponsors than their male counterparts. Ideally, this helps provide more viable career pathways and encourages more women to follow their freeride dreams. Spectators and athletes alike benefit from more people from different backgrounds doing rad shit in the mountains and on the Freeride World Tour.
Same risk; same reward. Photo: Dom Daher/FWT
On another level, this move is about greater respect for female athletes. In action sports, especially freeride, male and female athletes are subject to the same risks; a tumble from the top of the Bec Des Rosses can break your neck, regardless of gender. Cliffs, 50 degree-plus slopes and depth-hoar avalanche problems don’t care whether you’re a boy, girl, or something else—they will put you in the hospital (or worse) if you’re not careful. Freeriders must assume and try to mitigate these hazards, and FWT riders must compete among them. Not acknowledging the equal risk with an equal reward is downright disrespectful to the athletes.
This move is about respect for female athletes. Photo: Dom Daher/FWT
Lastly, this move helps set an example for other industries. If the FWT can commit to equal pay purses, why can’t other skiing competitions? Not only within the action-sports and outdoor industry, but beyond?
What started as a bit of a bro-fest, the traditionally male-dominated action-sports community is inching closer and closer to equality. Beyond the FWT, the World Surf League and Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival also implemented equal prize payouts recently. Even FIS, for all its problems, guarantees equal minimum pay across genders in both Freestyle and Alpine events (in the latter, women’s events are frequently more popular and profitable than men’s, and female athletes often out-earn their male counterparts).
As for us at Downdays, we’re here for it and psyched to see what this decision holds for the future of freeride.