Monday, September 24, 2012

X Games joins TTR World Snowboard Tour

X Games Aspen and Tignes will be official events on the World Snowboard Tour starting this winter, TTR Pro Snowboarding announced Monday.
It will be a big year for competitive snowboarding. X Games Aspen will join the Arctic Challenge, the Beijing and Innsbruck Air & Style competitions, and the Burton U.S. and European Opens as a 6Star event on the 2012-13 tour. X Games Tignes, also a 6Star event, will count toward Tour points for the 2013-14 season.
TTR also will co-sanction the 2012-13 USSA Grand Prix competitions as 5Star events. The Grand Prix has been elevated to FIS World Cup status this year, so those events will count for Olympic qualification points as well as points on the World Snowboard Tour.
The original dream of the TTR, back when legendary snowboarder Terje Haakonsen founded it as "Ticket To Ride" in 2002, was to unite the many independent snowboard events of the time under the umbrella of one tour so there could be one definitive champion of snowboarding at the end of a winter season. The structure of that tour has gone through a number of changes since then, such as the inclusion of women; the inception of a one-to-six-star tiered ranking system for events in 2005-06; the addition of discipline-specific champion titles in slopestyle, big air and halfpipe in 2011-12; and the name change from TTR World Tour to simply the World Snowboard Tour this year. Still, the underlying, simple dream that started it all has remained the same: to make all of these events count for something more than just individual wins.
The Winter X Games have always stood apart from this, as if on an island where no other contest before or after really mattered. By becoming a part of the Tour, the X Games also become part of a larger narrative that, combined with the other decades-old, highly prestigious snowboard events on the WST, will tell the true highs-and-lows story of an entire competitive season.
On the TTR side, while other high-level events have straggled in and out of the picture over the years, the Burton U.S. Open has been the only 6Star event to continuously represent the TTR Tour in North America. For this reason, interest in competing in the full circuit on what has largely been seen as a European tour has waxed and waned among riders on this side of the planet. With the addition of X Games Aspen to the WST lineup, the Tour's importance in North America should increase dramatically.
And because riders on the top of the WST points list will get X Games invites, the incentive to compete in the full tour will be that much higher.
As to why Tignes will count toward next season's Tour points instead of this one, Tim Reed, senior director of content strategy for ESPN X Games, said: "X Games and TTR worked to include X Games Tignes as part of the 2013 World Snowboard Tour, but unfortunately X Games could not fulfill on all of the necessary event requirements for a final tour stop, so the collective decision was made to have X Games Tignes become the first event on the 2014 calendar. Needless to say, it will be a great way to kick off 2014 tour schedule".
Although it is not likely that the splitting-up of Aspen and Tignes X Games events between WST tour years will continue past this season, there is a benefit to the current division.
Those who have been following the dramatic ups and downs of TTR's attempts to negotiate with the FIS on Olympic qualification matters over the past two years know that stacked competition calendars have been a massive stress for snowboarders hoping to get one of their country's team spots in the Winter Games. Riders are often forced to pick between Olympic-sanctioned FIS competitions and TTR events, causing them to miss out on the full TTR season one out of every four years.
With Tignes counting toward 2014 WST points, "what we're hoping is that, by getting the opportunity to achieve a 6Star result before the Olympics, riders see it as a way to alleviate some pressure", TTR executive board member Maria McNulty said.
"The X Games is one of the most important events to us", 2012 TTR Big Air champion Seppe Smits said. "It's really great that it's a part of the World Snowboard Tour now. It's also relieving to know that with the Grand Prix serving as both Tour points and World Cup result, this gives us at least a little breathing room in an extremely packed season. We all prefer to ride the World Snowboard Tour events and appreciate the efforts of TTR to work on unifying the tour and making it less hard on us to plan".
The Olympic qualifying period kicked off in New Zealand in August and will continue until January 2014.

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