The global pandemic has put a wrench in the plans of almost everything out there, including the Freeride World Tour (FWT). As most know the tour had to cancel the Verbier Xtreme, the last stop on the tour, last season due to the ramp-up of COVID-19. With major US sports leagues coming back to play there is hope that there could be a big mountain competitive season this winter. No doubt there will be changes to how the tour conducts its operations if there is a coming competition season. I will discuss the Freeride World Tour events, new rookies, and how the tour might look for the 2021 season.
The FWT is welcoming on 12 new rookies to this season’s athlete list:
- Mael Ollivier (FRA)
- David Deliv (SWE)
- Julian Hampton (NZL)
- Ross Tester (USA)
- Cooper Bathgate (CAN)
- Raymond McDermott (USA)
- Zuzanna Witych (POL)
- Tracy Chubb (USA)
- Hugo Serra (FRA)
- Michael Mawn (USA)
- Claire McGregor (NZL)
- Katie Anderson (CAN)
So how will the World Tour go about operations in the midst of a global pandemic? These are hypotheticals and options that I think the tour could use to complete the season.
This will not be like the NBA bubble as the nature of the Freeride World Tour requires travel. This bubble will require all athletes and the required staff to stay in a hotel together. Each member of the tour will have to stay in their own room separate from each other to avoid possible exposure.
Travel across international borders might be the most difficult task that the tour faces. With various travel restrictions, they will have to acquire special permission from Japan, Canada, Austria, Andorra, and Switzerland in order to make it to all the planned stops.
One way that they could get around international travel is to host the entire season within a single country. Luckily, there are multiple countries that are suitable for this setup. Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, and The United States are all options for this scenario. This could allow the athletes and staff to minimize travel and make it easier to plan with a single government body (special clearance will likely be needed due to health protocols).
The best thing going for the FWT is that skiing is an easy sport to keep away from crowds. Some venues in the past have had no spectators at all. It is just not a major part of the sport. Examples of locations where there were no spectators include Haines, Alaska, and Hakuba, Japan. This would not be a new aspect to the FWT but would be new to have an entire season without spectators. The famous finale of the tour, Verbier, typically has the largest spectator count of all events. Hundreds if not thousands of spectators crowd together in front of the Bec-de-Ross of the most anticipated big mountain event each year.
I talked with rookie Ray McDermott about what his expectations are for the coming season. He is optimistic saying:
“I honestly have no idea what will end up happening. Mountain bike racing has been happening a bit this summer so that is hopeful. If the travel restrictions ease up a little bit I think that the FWT is an awesome event format to happen during a pandemic. If it does happen, I just hope that we can do it safely and still have a ton of fun!”
– Raymond McDermott
Events this year will likely include Hakuba (Japan), Kicking Horse (Canada), Fieberbrunn (Austria), Ordino Arcalis (Andorra), and Verbier (Switzerland). All of these locations give a variety of different faces for the athletes to mold their skiing too. Ray says he is most excited about the Fieberbrunn stop:
“I am most looking forward to the stop in Fieberbrunn. The venue seems like the perfect mix of trickable features and big terrain.”
We will all have to wait and see what the tour’s plan is for the 2021 season. There has been little to no information given regarding if or how operations will be conducted.
How do you think the tour could complete the 2021 season? Share your suggestions in the comments!