Part Three – The Winter Dew Tour
Welcome to part three of our five-part series looking at the world’s best ski and snowboard tours. Our goal in this series is to take a look beyond traditional alpine racing and bring to you some of the most inspired competitive freeride skiing and riding happening today.
- Part One: World Ski & Snowboard Tours, Explained: Freeride World Tour
- Part Two: World Ski & Snowboard Tours, Explained: Natural Selection Tour
Extreme Expansion… Inside the Ropes
In much the same way Travis Rice pushed the limits of extreme snowboarding outside the resort ropes with his Natural Selection Tour, there was a similar transformation that happened inside the ropes. Extreme skiing and riding gained popularity behind the inaugural World Extreme Ski Championships in 1991 and the World Extreme Snowboarding Championships in 1992. Near this same time starting in the 1980s and accelerating in the 1990s, U.S. ski resorts saw massive expansions with each ski area racing to create the best mountain experience. This typically meant developing their resorts inside the ropes like adding new lifts or improving amenities.
Those weren’t the only changes, however. Under market pressures to remain competitive, ski resorts began introducing “terrain parks” to their designs satisfying the demands of snowboarders, freestyle skiers, skateboard crossovers, and everything in between. Slowly but surely freestyle areas and terrain parks were making their way inside the ropes.
The Dew Tour
It wasn’t until 2005, however, when Adventure Sports Group (ASG) officially capitalized on this golden opportunity. ASG management wanted to organize an extreme sports circuit to capitalize on this emerging niche market. They were also looking to sell broadcast rights to the circuit (a point that led to a number of venue and formatting changes over the years). Acting on their vision, ASG started The Dew Tour in 2005 with a five-city series showcasing skateboarding and BMX bike competitions.
Winter Dew Tour
In 2008, the Winter Dew Tour was added. It focused on snowboarding and freestyle skiing with halfpipe and slopestyle competitions. The inaugural Winter Dew Tour made three stops in Breckenridge, Colorado, Mount Snow, Vermont, and Northstar-at-Tahoe, California.
The following year in 2009 the tour returned to Breckenridge and then swapped out the other stops for Killington, Vermont, and Snowbasin, Utah. Although the Tour was considered widely successful and enjoyed by most athletes, it still lacked a strong national viewing audience.
So in 2012, the Winter Dew Tour changed format once again. Under a new contract agreement between the Alli management group, NBC Sports, and Live Nation, it relocated to Freeway Park in Breckenridge, Colorado for a single four-day competition.
In 2013, the Alli management group achieved yet another significant milestone in the Winter Dew Tour’s success by finalizing an agreement with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association to make their event an official Olympic qualifier. Doubling down on both the popularity and significance of the event, the Winter Dew Tour became an Olympic qualifier with top snowboarding names like Shaun White, Hannah Teter, and Travis Rice along with freeskiing superstars Tanner Hall, Sarah Burke, and Simon Dumont competing for a chance to go to the Olympics.
What types of events make up the Winter Dew Tour? Against a background of live music, unique food creations, and artistic entertainment, this four–day series offers serious competitions including:
- Men’s and Women’s Freeski Slopestyle
- Men’s and Women’s Freeski Superpipe
- Men’s and Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle
- Men’s and Women’s Snowboard Superpipe
- Ski Slopestyle & Halfpipe Team Event
- Snowboard Slopestyle & Halfpipe Team Event
- Men’s Snowboard Streetstyle
- Men’s and Women’s Adaptive Banked Slalom
Bigger, Better, Bolder in Breckenridge
For eleven years (ending in 2019), Freeway Park at Breckenridge Resort hosted the Winter Dew Tour, and rightly so. Prior to the Dew Tour series, Breckenridge hosted one of the very first snowboarding events in 1984 called, “The World’s.” It was also the first resort to keep its halfpipe open all season and has over the last decade collected several Freeskier awards for best terrain park in North America.
One of the reasons for Breckenridge’s success has to do with the sheer size of the venue. Offering five separate terrain parks with jumps, rails, features, and terrain, you can literally find something for any type of rider. But make no doubt about it. Breckenridge’s real claim to fame is their 22-foot Superpipe. Two-time X Games gold medalist Steve Fisher even claimed in another interview, “The 22-foot pipe at Breck has solidified its place in the snow industry as the very pinnacle of freestyle snowboarding and skiing.”
Breckenridge’s Superpipe is widely considered one of the world’s best among top snowboarders and freestyle skiers alike. It’s really a work of art when you begin to think about what goes into making this monster. Master pipe builder Nik Symon has been caring for Breck’s Superpipe for more than 14 years now. In another interview, Simon talked about the standards and safety in his craft explaining, “The Dew Tour pipe sets the standard for the year, and every year we try to figure out how to make it better. With the level of riding and the amplitude that people are getting, we just want to make it safe.”
And safety is something his team takes very seriously. With the help of up to six others, Simon spends a full three weeks simply moving the snow up and down the hill churning it into a heavy, snowy cement. Then starting at the top, they spend another week building the pipe deck before cutting the walls. This snow beast finally opens in early December and then lasts all season until closing day usually sometime in April.
Explaining the extensive building process in another interview Symon says,
“It’s an ever-changing beast. Its super challenging and a lot of people don’t have the patience for it. When we build it twice, we build it twice. We build the deck, then tear half of it down to process the snow and get it to a texture like sugar. That gives the wall a really, really solid surface, but it also makes it so the riders can carve into it. It’s a hard but it’s not icy. It’s a big move to do that, but the product is second to none.”
How to Score A Superpipe Competition
Under International Ski Federation (ISF) rules, a panel of six judges scores each run across five different factors including:
- Execution: How they perform in regard to balance and fluidity.
- Difficulty: How challenging the trick performed is.
- Variety: How many different types of tricks the athlete performs.
- Amplitude: The height reached above the top of the halfpipe wall.
- Progression: A fairly subjective category that scores riders’ creativity and how well their tricks are interlinked.
The rules for the slopestyle competition are similar except that the judges are scattered along the course coinciding with the jumps and features instead of at the bottom of the hill. These combined judges’ scores determine the rider’s score for each run.
The largest halfpipe in the world is located at LAAX Resort in Switzerland. It opened in 2015 and stands over 22 feet tall, is 72 feet wide, and runs a length of 656 feet.
A Cut Above At Copper
In 2019, The Dew Tour broke the mold from its Breckenridge venue and moved to its new home at Woodward Mountain Park at Copper Mountain, Colorado (WMP).
Speaking about the Dew series coming to WMP at the time, vice president and Dew Tour general manager Courtney Gresik said this in another interview,
“Copper is excited to be the new home to the Winter Dew Tour. Copper is well-seasoned in hosting world-class events, including the annual U.S. Grand Prix and the U.S. Amateur Snowboard Association Nationals…We are ready to get started on taking the event to a whole new level in terms of event progression and service to the athletes and fans.”
With indoor facilities spanning 19,000 square feet and covered in skateparks, Olympic-grade trampolines, foam pit jumps, as well as state-of-the-art indoor ski and snowboard training equipment, these facilities have few rivals. They are also designed for a number of different athletes. Skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders, BMXers, mountain bikers, scooter riders, and tumble athletes would all learn something valuable here.
Woodward’s Winter Wonderland
For the Dew athletes, however, the true experience lies in WMP’s winter playground. WMP offers a progression-based learning design. From a network of several large freestyle zones, athletes can choose among a number of options to incrementally challenge themselves and improve their skills. WMP is home to almost a dozen parks including Woodward Start Park, Progression Parks (I, II, III), Red’s Backyard, Peace Park, Central Park, Pipe Dream, and the coveted 22-foot Superpipe.
Pro Tips For Your Own Freestyle Progression
Although the 2022 Winter Dew Tour dates have yet to be announced, there’s still plenty of time to work on your freestyle tricks. Dew athletes may take the event to extremes, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow along (In fact, you probably shouldn’t huck that Superpipe on a first attempt unless you’re a pro yourself). It’s important to know how to progress safely if you want to learn how to succeed and stay healthy. Here’s a simple four-step approach pro freeride skier Cody Cirillo suggests to help you with your terrain park progressions.
Step 1 – Work Your Way Up
For those fortunate riders who have access to Breckenridge or WMP, there are tons of great opportunities to work on your tricks. For the rest of us (myself included), Cirillo stresses to do only what you feel comfortable with. Find ways to take small advances one at a time as you carefully build your skills and confidence.
Step 2 – Watch Others
Watching others successfully land the feature or trick you are attempting can be extremely helpful. You get a sense of the timing, rotation, and effort that’s needed to succeed. This helps your brain bridge the gap from unfamiliar to routine.
Step 3 – Speed Check
Cirillo also recommends you speed-check yourself before launching your first jump. Practice the run-up to the feature with what you believe is the correct speed and then bail out at the last second or ride off the side of the jump and avoid launching it. Cirillo believes this approach gives you the best estimate of the speed you need until you feel confident enough to do it correctly.
Step 4 – Have Confidence
Believe in yourself. The confidence in practicing and knowing you can successfully land the jumps helps you to master new challenges.
Final Request To Our Readers
We hope you have enjoyed reading and will follow us along in this series. On one last note, we would like to ask for your help. If you have any great ideas about ski or snowboard tours you would like us to consider covering please share your comments below. Our readers have some of the best resources and we appreciate all of your help. Thank you again.