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New school skiers boycott FIS

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"For about four years now, mogul skiers have been able to flip, or at least a lot of them have, and it’s something that they keep saying they want to be able to do in competitions. The FIS is really slow to recognize that ability in the athletes, and the stiff judging format and bureaucracy makes it hard to make those changes," says Szocs.

"We want to see the skiers benefiting from these events, not the FIS. If you’re involved in the FIS, whether it be freestyle or racing or whatever, they tell you what sponsors you can have what clothing to wear, what size your patches are allowed to be, so it’s pretty limiting for the athletes in how they can make an income from it."

In response to the letter, FIS Freestyle Chairman Chris Robinson met with Szocs and a few supporting skiers to discuss the ad at a meeting facilitated by Whistler-Blackcomb. Szocs wanted to find out how far FIS intended to go with new school competitions, and the FIS wanted to know if it were possible to work out an arrangement that would allow the big name skiers to attend their event.

"I left the meeting with a good understanding of what their concerns are, and I think it was positive," says Robinson. "I think it will eventually lead to more constructive discussions of this down the road."

In a recent letter to Powder magazine, Robinson elaborated on the FIS’s view of the conflict between new school skiers and the FIS.

"All of a sudden there is controversy swirling around freestyle skiing which otherwise has been left for dead, or at least presumed a goner, in some circles in recent years. Well, I am pleased to report that the sport’s alive and recuperating with a new World Cup sponsor (Suzuki) and that yes, FIS freestyle is sanctioning New Style events in conjunction with World Cup competitions this season."

Robinson says that the goal is to create new competitive opportunities and prize money events for athletes, to promote safety in new school events, and to promote the link between classic freestyle events (moguls and aerials) with new school skiing, which has freestyle roots. They also feel it will be good for national ski associations in promoting the sport to young skiers.

"We don’t want to own it or control it," says Robinson. "We do want to expand on it and see as many kids as possible jumping, spinning, grabbing and expressing the same spirit that spawned organized freestyle 30 years ago. It’s all ‘freestyle’ and there is no exclusive franchise on who runs events, in fact we believe the more the merrier."

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