By Michel Beaudry
It was a bold claim. “We’re going to turn Aspen into the epicentre of the skiing universe,” promised Honda Ski Tour founder Kipp Nelson. “And we’re stoked you’re joining us. So welcome to the tour. We’ll see you on the hill… or in the pavilion… or at the after party.” His words definitely tickled my curiosity. Sure, I was interested in how his production team would showcase the skiercross and halfpipe competitions, which was purportedly the tour’s raison d’ètre . But I was also keen to see how the social side of the event would be handled. I mean, how could a new skiing-and-music-and-party tour with the same initials as the legendary Hunter S. Thompson go wrong in Aspen?
Turns out Aspen was a much bigger nut to crack than Kipp or his business partner, Steve Brown ever imagined…
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I first heard about the Honda Ski Tour from my friend Zach Crist. “You gotta check this out man,” said the former X-Games gold medallist. “It’s right down your alley. We’ve got this four-event national tour with over $500,000 in prize money. And it’s not about snowmobiling or shovel racing or any other fringe winter sport. It’s all about showcasing the most progressive skiing disciplines going. We’ve got skiers like Darren Rahlves and Casey Puckett and Tanner Hall and Simon Dumont. On the musical side, we’ve got George Clinton and Sean Paul and Swollen Members and Blackalicious. I mean, this thing is about to blow the ski event doors wide open.”
I was intrigued. For it sounded to me like Kipp’s gang had taken a page right out of WSSF founder Doug Perry’s event management bible (if such a tome ever existed). Only these guys had decided to make a national tour of it.
“Kipp and Steve originally envisioned this as a dual GS race circuit,” Zach explained. “But Reggie (Crist) and I convinced them to go current.” No surprise there. Teammates on their university team, the HST partners were huge ski racing fans. Both had made significant fortunes in the ensuing decades and were now looking for a way to give something back to skiing. The Crist brothers, on the other hand, just wanted to make sure their Sun Valley neighbours were investing their money in the right place. “This is all about celebrating modern ski culture,” added Zach. “And you and I both know that skiercross and halfpipe are on the leading edge of that culture. We’re lucky these guys understood that too…”