Perhaps it was inevitable, but the news is shocking nonetheless: Today, December 8, 2022, the Freeride World Tour has announced that it is being acquired by the International Ski Federation (FIS). The FWT has now fallen under the umbrella of FIS.
Although the press release emphasizes that freeride events will continue to be organized by the existing FWT team, and that FIS involvement will focus mainly on "marketing and governance," the acquisition opens up a number of questions: Will the FWT become the "Freeride World Cup"? What changes will be made to qualification tours, safety standards, TV and online broadcasting? And perhaps the biggest question of all: How long will it take until freeride becomes an Olympic sport?
Read on for the full press release.
The Freeride World Tour (FWT) is making a milestone in its history thanks to the merger with the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS), which is acquiring FWT properties. The two organizations will join forces starting from the 2022-2023 season.
FIS is the governing body for international skiing and snowboarding, founded in 1924 during the first Olympic Games in Chamonix, France. Recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FIS manages the Olympic disciplines of Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined, Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding, including setting the international competition rules.
By acquiring the FWT, FIS will further unite all the disciplines in skiing and snowboarding, giving them more strength and power to develop on the global stage.
FWT will continue to run the daily operations of the Tour, remaining committed to its core values of safety, performance, responsibility, inclusivity and fun. Moreover, the competition format, offering a fair path to every athlete, from grassroots to elite events, and the judging system, remain unchanged. FIS will place its focus on the marketing and governance of the FWT, instilling a structure that follows the guidelines of recognized Olympic sports.
We are thrilled to be joining forces with FIS. For our freeride athletes and event organizers, being under the umbrella of the largest winter sports International Federation, recognized by the International Olympic Committee, will give them more access to support, increased visibility and additional resources that will ultimately allow the FWT and all of its stakeholders to grow.
- Nicolas Hale-Woods, FWT CEO
The merger with FWT will see FIS add one of the most exciting, dynamic winter sports to its portfolio. This is truly a win-win for all parties as FIS can bring massive growth potential to the FWT providing the chance to develop on a broader stage. FWT brings a highly professional tour that offers breathtaking action and an entirely new element of skiing and snowboarding to FIS.
- Johan Eliasch, FIS President
I’m excited to hear the news that FWT will take the step and team up with FIS. Since I have been involved in both worlds, I think the two parties have a lot to learn from each other and become even stronger together. I think it's a good opportunity for FWT to develop and take the next step. I would love to see it on an Olympic scene in the future. I believe the unique feeling and vibe around the freeride community will not change, because it is made by the people around it and their big passion for the sport, and this will remain the same.
- Mattias Hargin, Olympic Alpine Skier, FIS World Cup former athlete and 8th place at the Xtreme Verbier 2015
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 will come with it.
- Reine Barkered, FWT Legend, 2012 FWT World Champion, 14 seasons under his belt
UPDATE 5:30PM, 8 December 2022: Here's the official press release from FIS (the one above is from FWT).
The International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) is delighted to announce that it has acquired the Freeride World Tour (FWT) and that the two organizations will join forces already for the 2022-2023 season.
The FWT is the worldwide circuit of freeride snowboarding and skiing that features the best riders in the world competing on the most challenging alpine faces across iconic ski resorts. By acquiring the FWT, FIS will further unite all the disciplines in skiing and snowboarding, giving them more strength and power to develop on the global stage.
FWT will continue to run the daily operations of the tour, remaining committed to their core values of safety, performance, responsibility, inclusivity and fun. FIS will focus on the marketing and governance of the FWT, and integrating FWT into the FIS structure that follows the guidelines of recognized FIS and Olympic sports.
The FWT currently includes more than 6,000 licensed athletes from the junior level to the elite Freeride World Tour competitions. On average, five top-level events take place each season with another 200 development events.
“Integrating FWT will see FIS add one of the most exciting, dynamic winter sports competition formats to its portfolio,” said Johan Eliasch. “This is truly a win-win for all parties as FIS can bring massive growth potential to the FWT providing the chance to develop on a broader stage. FWT brings a highly professional tour that offers breathtaking action and an entirely new element of skiing and snowboarding to FIS.”
“We are thrilled to be joining forces with FIS,” said Nicolas Hale-Woods, FWT founder. “For our freeride athletes and event organizers, being under the umbrella of the largest winter International Federation, recognized by the International Olympic Committee, will give them more access to support, increased visibility and additional resources that will ultimately allow the FWT and all of its stakeholders to grow.”
“We are excited to welcome all the freeride athletes to the FIS family,” said FIS Council Member Dean Gosper. “We look forward to working with the entire FWT to ensure the development of the sport on a global scale as FIS has done with so many of the youth-oriented events of snowboard, freestyle and freeski,” said Dean Gosper, who has been appointed Executive Chairman of FWT and will work closely together with Hale-Woods.
Freeriding has experienced massive growth during the last few years. The elite-level Freeride World Tour has three development tiers, Challenger, Qualifier and Junior, allowing athletes to hone their skills and work their way up to the top level. The organization also cooperates with ski schools to share the sport with riders of all ages.
Based in Verbier (SUI), the FWT was established in 1996 with start of the Xtreme Verbier events and has since grown to include a full circuit with competitions in Europe, North America, South America and Oceania.
Update 5:40PM, 8 December 2022: Since a lot of people are asking questions, FIS has just sent out an additional statement to its member associations. The text reads as follows.
To all FIS Member Associations
Oberhofen, 08 December 2022
Freeride World Tour
Dear Member Associations
Reference is made the above matter and the Media Info released today (attached to this letter for ease of reference).
By way of clarification, this is to reiterate that the acquisition of Freeride World Tour by FIS is a strategic step to bring Freeride closer to FIS as part of a longer process. In an initial phase, this does, however, not mean that Freeride becomes a FIS discipline in the formal and statutory sense. Therefore, the FIS rules and regulations do currently not apply and Freeride World Tour will continue to operate rather independently as they have in the past.
A formal inclusion of Freeride as a FIS discipline will be carefully assessed over the next few months and would, in the given case, be submitted to the Congress for approval in due course.
INTERNATIONAL SKI AND SNOWBOARD FEDERATION